Liverpool have signed their first player of the summer, confirming on Friday that they had agreed a deal to sign Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.
Konate has signed a long-term contract and the Reds reportedly activated his £36 million release clause to do the deal.
Liverpool signed Ben Davies permanently and Ozan Kabak on loan during the January transfer window to cover for the injuries they had suffered, most notably to Virgil van Dijk.
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However neither performed consistently and it is reported that the Reds won’t be making Kabak’s loan permanent, with Konate coming in to compete with Joe Gomez and allow Fabinho to play in midfield regularly.
In order to find out more about Konate we spoke to Marc Hlusiak from the Eurosport Germany office who watches the Frenchman more regularly.
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Hlusiak says that Konate is a “similar type of player” to his old team-mate Dayot Upamecano, who has also left Leipzig to follow manager Julian Nagelsmann to Bayern Munich.
According to Hlusiak, Konate “is also a very physical player with a high pace. He is strong in duels, especially in the air.”
It is expected that Konate will come in and play next to Van Dijk next season and Hlusiak is really keen to stress just how good he is 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.”
The speed of Konate is something that will be particularly important for the way Liverpool play. With the full-backs attacking so much it’s important for the Liverpool centre-backs to have good recovery pace.
Of course Van Dijk had that but after a serious knee injury he may have lost some of that pace so having someone like Konate next to him will be useful.
Virgil Van Dijk
Image credit: Getty Images
His aerial ability will help as well. In 2019-20 no team scored more set-piece goals than Liverpool, this season four did.
It’s not exactly a huge drop-off but Liverpool are a team that thrive in set-piece situations, their focus on training that area shows the importance they place on them. Set-pieces is another area where losing Van Dijk hurt them, he can often demand the attention of multiple players. If that is the case when he returns Konate could become a real threat in that regard.
One area where Liverpool fans might be concerned is that Konate has missed a lot of playing time due to injuries.
Over the past two seasons he has started just 14 matches after starting 27 in the 2018-19 season.
Towards the end of the season, as Hlusiak points out, Nagelsmann tended to use some of his other options. He did say however that he thinks Konate will come good as long as he is given time.
“In Leipzig this year he had some injury problems and made it into the starting XI only eight times. Especially towards the end of the season,
“Nagelsmann relied on Upamecano, Orban and Klostermann. His physical game should fit well into the Premier League though - even if you have to allow him to get used to it.”
Hlusiak says that Konate is “good – but not exorbitantly good,” especially compared to Upamecano.
“The good thing is, he makes few mistakes because he plays very cleverly. I'm sure, if a coach trusts in him, that he can one day be the player who plays the first passes.”
At one stage Liverpool’s back five looked set for years but Gomez has suffered from injuries worse than Van Dijk and the Dutchman himself will be turning 30 over the summer.
If the signing works out Konate could be a Liverpool centre-back for a decade, and that’s a pretty good deal at £36 million.
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