RB Leipzig have admitted to snubbing two bids from Liverpool for Naby Keita, but admit that a sale could be sanctioned next summer.
The highly-rated Guinea international emerged as a top target for Reds boss Jurgen Klopp early in the current transfer window.
Two offers were tabled, but Goal revealed in July that no third approach from Anfield would be made after seeing a £66 million proposal knocked back.
Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick insists his side never had any intention of parting with Keita, but concedes that his development could lead to a departure in 2018.
He told reporters when quizzed on the 22-year-old’s future: “There were two offers from Liverpool and in between times also a telephone call between the clubs.
“But not between me and Jurgen Klopp.
“For us, it was always clear that we would not give Naby Keita. That is why there was no direct contact.
“Every club that has sporting ambitious would have done the same as we did.
“But we must weigh it up. If we let Keita go for €70-80m this year, what more would that bring us compared to the sum we would get next year?”
Keita contributed eight goals to the Leipzig cause from midfield last season, as they finished as runners-up in the Bundesliga.
More of the same is expected this term, which will help to raise his profile even further.
He will, however, see a £48m release clause kick in next summer if no fresh terms are agreed in Germany, with Rangnick admitting again that Leipzig may be forced to reluctantly part with a prized asset.
He added: “Sometimes, players develop even faster than the club.
“When he plays a season like last year and, if possible, in the Champions League too - then we might be able to let a player join a big club and live with it.”
Keita and Leipzig will kick off their 2017-18 Bundesliga campaign with a trip to Schalke on Saturday.