Berlin – RB Leipzig boss Ralph Rangnick has ruled out letting key midfielder Naby Keita join Liverpool during the January transfer window, six months earlier than planned.
The Guinea international midfielder signed a deal in August to join Premier League giants Liverpool for the 2018/19 season after the Merseyside club triggered a release clause in his contract.
The deal is reportedly worth €51.9 million and there had been speculation RB Leipzig could let Keita join Liverpool early, during the Bundesliga's winter break in January.
However, Leipzig's director of sport Ralph Hasenhuettl has ruled out Keita leaving before the end of the season, because they need him in their bid to qualify for next season's Champions League.
"Even if we should not reach the knockout stages of Champions League, it would make no sense to allow Naby to join Liverpool earlier," Rangnick, RB's director of sport, told the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper.
"We want to qualify internationally (for the Champions League) from the Bundesliga again and we need Naby for that."
Leipzig are currently second in the Bundesliga, four points behind Bayern Munich, and in contention to qualify for the next round of the Champions League.
They are currently third in their group with two games left, needing to make up the two-point deficit on second-placed Porto in their final games away to bottom side Monaco and home against leaders Besiktas.
Keita has had a difficult few weeks after being sent off three times in seven games for club and country.
The 22-year-old hit the headlines for the wrong reasons at the weekend when it emerged he is accused of using a fake Guinean licence to twice try to obtain a German driving permit.
He reportedly faces a fine of €415 000, based on his salary.
"We, of course, stand by Naby," was all Rangnick would say on the legal issue.