Liverpool saw off the challenge of Barcelona to land RB Leipzig star Naby Keita, according to the club's chief executive.
In a revelation which is sure to push home the strained relationship between the Reds and La Blaugrana, Oliver Mintzlaff told Sport Bild that the Catalan giants hadn't tried as hard as Liverpool to secure the midfielder's signing.
Keita is due to join Liverpool next summer after Leipzig and Jurgen Klopp's side came to an agreement for a club-record £48m, and Mintzlaff explained that it was the latter's determination to snap him up that prevented a move to Barca going through.
He said: "That's right, even more so because Barcelona were also interested in Naby Keita. This was confirmed to us by Barcelona, but obviously they didn't try as hard as Liverpool."
Keita, a Guinea international, had expressed his desire to leave Leipzig last summer in a bid to push through a move to Anfield.
However, the Bundesliga club refused to accept any of the Reds' offers for their star centre midfielder and held out until Liverpool opted to put forward a near £50m bid for his services.
He's an African record signing, but Naby Keïta, one of our #BBCAFOTY nominees, says he still loves playing street ⚽️ with childhood friends when back home in Guinea https://t.co/2JWrDTVSVc 😊 Voting for BBC African Footballer of the Year is still open https://t.co/PNYjV4bG6E pic.twitter.com/rd7l8IA5RX— BBC Africa (@BBCAfrica) November 21, 2017
Mintzlaff went on to explain why Leipzig refused to sanction the 22-year-old's sale to the Premier League outfit and revealed that doing so would have ensured other stars may have asked to leave too.
He said: "He wanted the transfer this summer. But (sporting director) Ralf Rangnick told the team that we will not sell any players (at that time).
“This was not lip service - it was set in stone. Had we released Keita, other players might have come up with a similar idea.
“It (the Liverpool move) gave the player more security, but also left us with a significantly higher transfer fee."
Keita has featured 81 times for Leipzig since he moved there in July 2016 from RB Salzburg, including 15 appearances this term.
He would have played more times for his current employers but for his ill-discipline in 2017/18 - the 27-times capped international being sent off three times already this campaign.