Premier League winners last season, Champions League winners in the season before that, Liverpool were an unstoppable team for the past 30 months and conquered every big trophy there was to conquer in England and Europe. However, 30 months is a huge toll on players and it is an even bigger toll if there is little to no rotation in the starting XI.
Liverpool bore the brunt of it this season as Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip, the core of Liverpool’s backline, have been injured for more than 6 months, during which Liverpool fell by 6-7 spots in the Premier League table, while they were eliminated from the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and are now on the cusp of faltering in the Champions League after their 1st leg quarter-final loss to Real Madrid.
While Klopp did not want to spend big on defenders in the January window, reinforcements in the form of Championship center-back Ben Davies and Schalke center-half Ozan Kabak were brought to the club on the deadline day. This has, however, only worsened Liverpool’s results as they are yet to win a Premier League game at home this season.
In such cases, the focus has been shifted to the defender that is needed to be brought into this squad in the summer. On the top of that priority list is RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate.
While this year the youngster has only played 17 times for Leipzig, 7 of them have come off the bench. The youngster had been touted to play more games after the turn of the year, however, a muscle injury has put the defender out of the squad since January.
Why does Klopp want Ibrahima Konate?
Jurgen Klopp has certain qualities he demands a player should have when they play a specific position in his starting XI. While the attackers need to be fast, strong on the ball, and fluid in the way they pass, the midfielders need to be workhorses and have the guile to control the ball and break up play in the center of the park.
Klopp’s requirements for defenders, however, are quite different. Klopp has grown on the ideology of pressing in specific areas without the ball and every pressing team holds a very high backline which can be exploited by opposition players, which is why Klopp requires his defenders, moreover, his center-backs to be fast, technical on the ball and have the ability to sense danger and calm the game down when required.
Virgil Van Dijk was very adept at this and Klopp now sees the same potential in Ibrahima Konate.
What can Konaté do for the Reds?
Ibrahima Konaté, an FC Sochaux youth product, joined RB Leipzig in the summer of 2017 as an 18-year-old and has since been extremely impressive for the Red Bull club. Konate is one of the many youngsters who is destined to shine for France in the years to come, however, the youngster can skyrocket his career with Liverpool.
Konate, 21, is fast, doesn’t shy away from challenges, and looks to retain the ball almost immediately for his side. Moreover at 6’4, Konate wins most aerial duels and he has the stats to back it up. The defender this season has won almost 3 to 4 aerial duels per 90 mins, while he is also very rarely dribbled past. It is the defender’s sense of awareness around him that makes him an attractive prospect for Klopp and Liverpool.
Like Liverpool, Leipzig have often played a high backline this season and this is where Konate has been useful. The 21 -year old’s pace and awareness has helped Leipzig from conceding goals in counter-attack situations. One of his more underrated abilities is his passing range as Konate can easily pick passes between spaces while is also very adept at switching the ball from one side to the other, which at Liverpool is an essential quality as the likes of Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold are always high up the field.
He can bring a sense of calm to this otherwise chaotic Liverpool backline and become an incredible center-back partner for anybody besides him for years to come, given the young age of the Frenchman.
Can Liverpool secure Konaté’s signature?
Ibrahima Konaté has been valued at something close to £30 million and Liverpool are ready to spend that amount to fill that gaping hole at the back. However, RB Leipzig are surely going to play hardball as they are under no obligation to sell the youngster with Konaté’s contract expiring in 2023.
Moreover, with Dayot Upemecano leaving next season, Konaté’s value to Leipzig is much more now. In the past, Liverpool also likened Timo Werner, ex-forward of Leipzig, and were priced out of the move as Leipzig asked for 15 million more than the German’s market value due to his importance to the club.
RB Leipzig understands Liverpool’s desperation for the center-half, however, if Liverpool makes a sizeable offer, Leipzig might be tempted to accept it as they are aware they might not receive more than £30 million for the defender next season.
Klopp’s needs for the summer are clear, it is only a matter of finances as Liverpool will need to loosen the purse strings if they are to fire on all cylinders next season.