According to multiple sources, RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konaté is set to join Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, as the club look to end their search for a new centre-back. The French defender broke onto the scene with Leipzig at the start of the 2018-19 campaign, making 28 appearances in the Bundesliga as Die Roten Bullen finished third. Since then, Konaté’s found minutes on the pitch difficult to come by, appearing in only 12 league fixtures in 2020-21 and 8 in 2019-20. In Liverpool’s Round of 16 match-up against the Red Bulls in the UEFA Champions League this season, the Frenchman was absent for both fixtures. Upon hearing this you might be wondering…did they get the wrong man?
Still only 21-years-old, Ibrahima Konaté evidently has a bright future ahead of him, but the Reds could be questioned for the move. Paying a fee that is reportedly around £30m for a player who is the fifth choice defender at his club is a bit of a risky tactic, and Ozan Kabak’s permanent deal for the club should come for cheaper. Nagelsmann’s decison to leave him out of the side so regularly has also stunted his development. Even when the 21-year-old is given the chance, he’s still not a particularly calming presence on the ball, nor does he come free of defensive errors. So why does the Leipzig man have such a sweeping reputation? Is it all just fuss over a young player? Asking such questions could be understandable. After all, he’s played just 586 minutes in the league this season. But Konaté should still be a positive addition to the Reds, and fulfill a void they still desperately need.
Konaté built his reputation off of a respectable 2018-19 campaign, in which he made 31 appearances between the Bundesliga and UEFA Europa League as a 19-year-old. His astute defensive awareness alongside Dayot Upamecano stood out among the pack, and he won more aerial duels (3.5 per game) than the vast majority of Bundesliga defenders. While he’s improved in possession and with the timing of his tackles, his positioning and aerial presence are evidently Konaté’s standout features.
Premier League pundits often bang on about how physical the Premier League is in comparison with other leagues, and Konaté is well built to deal with that in a possible Ruben Dias kind of way (albeit to a smaller, less vocal scale). If given the chance Konaté has all the tools to succeed at Liverpool. He’s lightning quick, strong as an ox, and very comfortable contesting duels in the air. In fact, Konaté could be the quickest of Liverpool’s defenders. This speed and overall solid positional understanding would allow Trent Alexander-Arnold to continue to strut his stuff in attack, knowing the Frenchman is so solid in behind at sweeping up the messes and covering space Trent neglects. Having the ability to learn from someone like Virgil Van Dijk should also help his game greatly, even if he’s not quite at the level needed to replace the Dutchman just yet.
Finally, while the Leipzig man is not the greatest ball-playing centre-half, the likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago will naturally look to get on the ball more anyway. So although Konaté comes with evident drawbacks and the fee seems high, there is no reason to believe the Frenchman wouldn’t be a good addition to Liverpool FC. At the very least, Liverpool evidently have their priorities straight and are putting their money to good use this summer in signing a new centre-back. If the move goes through, it will be up to Konaté to prove any doubters wrong or any over-hypers right, and showcase his talent in the Premier League next season.