Ibrahima Konate – Another Great Bit Of Business From Liverpool

Konate Liverpool
Photo Credit: AP

Liverpool splashed over £35 million on Ibrahima Konate last offseason. The aim was for Konate to slot alongside Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Reds’ defence long-term.

Konate Liverpool rumours had been around for a while before the deal was confirmed. The Frenchman arrived at the club with competition for places, but the expectation was that he could eventually become first-choice next to van Dijk.

That ambition took some time to become reality, with the 22-year-old starting just 11 Premier League matches in his debut campaign on Merseyside. However, he has since made a positive impact although not quite on the same scale as teammate Luis Diaz.

A stellar FA Cup final performance is the highlight of Konate’s Liverpool career to date. It took time to earn Jurgen Klopp’s full trust with Joel Matip starting 31 Premier League matches in 2021-22.

Injuries had disrupted much of the last two seasons at RB Leipzig, but this time, Konate was out of the team due to Klopp’s decisions rather than spending his time in the treatment rooms.

Arriving for such a fee, he was always going to get a sustained run at some point, but the timing as such threw Konate in at the deep end.

He has generally impressed. There was a blip on the final day of the season, however, with Konate being responsible for Wolves’ first half goal, which could have played a massive part in the title race.

Steven Warnock explained on BBC, “It’s a mistake from Ibrahima Konate who is in for Virgil van Dijk – he goes to get the header and reads the flight completely wrong, it goes over his head and Raul Jiminez latches onto the ball, it’s a simple tap in for Pedro Neto.”

Konate Scouting Report

Errors have been few and far between for Konate in general. His biggest issue when it comes to reliability is fitness, as Eurosport Germany editor Marc Hlusiak described in 2021.

Hlusiak said, “The good thing is, he makes few mistakes because he plays very cleverly.”

He went on to add that Konate has the ability to take on a greater playmaking role.

“I’m sure, if a coach trusts in him, that he can one day be the player who plays the first passes.”

Hlusiak spoke highly of Konate’s physical attributes, which have been on show throughout his time at Liverpool.

“[Konate] is also a very physical player with a high pace. He is strong in duels, especially in the air. His strength is definitely his aerial game. He is also strong when it comes to taking the ball because he anticipates well and with his high speed he is able to steal balls.”

All of Hlusiak’s comments align with Konate’s Liverpool showings to date. He is far from the finished product, yet that’s not what anyone would expect from a 22-year-old who has missed as much football as he has.

This signing was a means to improve the squad while acquiring upside. He was never going to be as good as van Dijk immediately, though there have been indications he could be the Dutchman’s successor.

What Does The Future Hold

Klopp and his staff have clearly been impressed with Konate through the spring and early-summer months.

The potential for a Konate and Van Dijk defensive partnership is high, and they have played a substantial role in Liverpool conceding just 6.42 non-penalty expected goals in the Premier League since the start of April.

While there is almost a decade age gap between the two, Liverpool will hope this is their main central defensive partnership for years to come.

Van Dijk is heading into his age-31 campaign, but he’s still got years at the top of the sport. If Konate can avoid injuries in 2022-23, he should be looking at north of 30 Premier League starts.

Konate has all the attributes to be an incredibly effective Klopp centre-back. Keeping error-free is going to be crucial to his long-term future at the club, however, particularly with such little margin for error when battling against Manchester City in the league.

International Chances

It’s not easy trying to get into the France squad at the moment, let alone the first XI. Konate is behind a raft of high-calibre central defenders, though it was a surprise to see him left out of the upcoming French squad.

William Saliba got the nod ahead of Konate, who had demonstrated some strong form for Liverpool.

Didier Deschamps explained the decision at his squad announcement.

“Yes, I’m following [Konate], he’s in a team which is competing in the Champions League final and for the title in England. But since he’s been at Liverpool, he’s mostly played in a four-man defence. And there is competition [in the France team].

“I brought William [Saliba] last time and he always plays in a back three. It’s either one or the other, it’s very competitive, and that’s very good – it allows for the veterans to not get too comfortable.”

Deschamps has favoured a 3-5-2 since Karim Benzema’s reintroduction to the team, which seems to be working against Konate.

Saliba has been excellent for Marseille, earning the UNFP Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award, but being left out despite playing well for one of the best teams in Europe shows how hard it will be for Konate to make his name on the international stage.

The reigning world champions are really spoilt for choice in defence from Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard and Presnel Kimpembe to Jules Kounde, Dayot Upamecano and Konate.