Naby Keïta – The Cornerstone of RB Leipzig’s Future

Naby Keïta – The Cornerstone of RB Leipzig’s Future

Manuel Veth –

Naby Keïta is the biggest discovery in German football this season. The central midfielder was the heart soul of a RasenBallsport Leipzig squad that managed to finish the Bundesliga in second place and therefore became the first club in UEFA history to reach the group stage of the Champions League in their first year of top-flight football.

Promoted from Bundesliga 2 last season Leipzig even challenged Bayern for long stretches of the Bundesliga season and only after a miserable stretch after the winter break were Bayern able to put a gap between themselves and Leipzig. Signed from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer of 2016 Keïta was the shooting star of the squad.

His eight goals and eight assists in 31 Bundesliga games reflect Keïta’s attacking abilities. But the 16 scorer points aside Keïta, as Chris Williams explains very well on the Gegenpressing – Bundesliga Podcast is essential in Leipzig’s transition game.

Naby Keïta is the Most Important Puzzle Piece for Leipzig

Keïta, in fact, is the most important puzzle piece when it comes to connecting Leipzig’s offence and defence. A box-to-box midfielder who has playmaking visions it is often forgotten that Keïta is just 22-years old. It is, therefore, no surprise that many big clubs have taken a closer look at the midfielder.

One of the clubs that have been heavily linked with Keïta is Liverpool. It, is in fact, astonishing how much press coverage Keïta has generated on the Merseyside. The stories that connect Keïta to Liverpool are superficial at best.

Leipzig's management have already told stars Forsberg (l), Poulson (c) and Keïta (r) that they will not be allowed to leave the club. (ROBERT MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Leipzig’s management have already told stars Forsberg (l), Poulson (c) and Keïta (r) that they will not be allowed to leave the club. (ROBERT MICHAEL/AFP/Getty Images)

While it is true that Keïta has made some noise in Leipzig about wanting to leave the club any attempts by him, and also Emil Forsberg, were quickly shut down by the highly ambitious sporting director Ralf Rangnick. Sponsored by the highly ambitious energy drinks company Red Bull RB Leipzig is supposed to become a vehicle that is to bring the Red Bull brand to the highest level.

Red Bull Always Wants the Maximum

Those who have followed Red Bull’s project in sports may note that Dieter Mateschitz, who is the owner of the company, is known for wanting to achieve the maximum. His plans in Formula 1, ice hockey, and extreme sports were all success stories.

Only Red Bull Salzburg could be considered a small failure. The Austrian club, despite significant investments, never reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. But even in Salzburg, where Red Bull has severed ownership ties to comply with UEFA licencing, Red Bull has brought success on some levels. The junior squad, for example, won the UEFA Youth League this season, and Red Bull Salzburg is now a major talent developer for RB Leipzig.

Leipzig in the meantime are straight into the group stage in their first year in the Bundesliga. But the ambitions will not end here. Mateschitz wants titles, and he wants them soon. Hence, the club will do everything in its power to hang on to the likes of Naby Keïta.

Leipzig Will Buy not Sell

Leipzig, in fact, will make significant investments in their squad this summer. The club has already signed the highly talented Swiss goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo from Young Boys Bern. By the time of writing Ralf Rangnick had travelled to Istanbul to complete the signing of winger Armindo Tué Na Bangna, better known as Bruma, from Galatasaray.

Ralf Rangnick is currently in Istanbul to finalise the deal for Galatasaray's Bruma (r). (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Ralf Rangnick is currently in Istanbul to finalise the deal for Galatasaray’s Bruma (r). (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Another player who is expected to sign for Leipzig in the coming days is the talented Austrian midfielder Konrad Laimer from Red Bull Salzburg. The Futbolgrad Network has learned that that transfer is completed but that Leipzig and Salzburg want to wait to announce the transfer until after UEFA has granted both clubs a licence to compete in the Champions League next season—the clubs are under investigation due to their link with Red Bull.

But it is unlikely that Leipzig will be done after those transfers. The Futbolgrad Network was on location when Leipzig lost 4-5 to Bayern München in the Red Bull Arena in early May. Leipzig dominated the game until head coach Ralph Hasenhüttl took off Timo Werner, Marcel Sabitzer as well as Yussuf Poulson and it was evident that Leipzig did not have the ability to replace those players with the squad players from the bench.

Hence, Leipzig’s mission this summer will be to strengthen the squad for Red Bull to be represented well in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Meanwhile selling stars like Naby Keïta would run counter to the effort to give the squad some depth, which means that the midfield star will be going nowhere this summer.

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.


  • comment-avatar

    Nice article. I like it

  • comment-avatar
    Realist McRealface 7 years ago

    You aren’t a big club, don’t talk like you guys are one.

    • comment-avatar

      The Futbolgrad Network is a group of journalists, who report on teams without club affiliation. Thank you for your comment though.

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