Liverpool are eyeing up RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate and have added him to their transfer shortlist, according to reports.
The Reds are on the hunt for a new centre-back after long-term injuries to both Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. It is felt that the duo will be lucky to play again this season, leaving Joel Matip as the club’s sole central defender.
Matip himself has had a long history of injury struggles, while Fabinho, who has dropped back to the position in recent times has also missed a spell of games this season.
It is clear that the Reds need a new signing in January to get them to the end of the campaign, and Christian Falk of Bild has claimed that Konate could well be that man.
Ideally, Matip plus a new signing would manage to play most games in order to help Liverpool defend the Premier League title. This would then see Fabinho move back to his usual No 6 role.
The Brazilian, as well as Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams and Billy Koumetio could provide further cover.
Then from next season onwards, there would be four excellent centre-backs fighting it out for two spots.
Liverpool have been linked to Konate’s fellow French RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano for a while now. However, he has a release clause that comes into play next summer. It might not make sense from a business perspective to pay a huge sum extra for him in January.
Now, reliable Bundesliga journalist Falk has claimed that Konate has joined his teammate on the Reds’ list of targets. A move this January is absolutely not out of the question.
Konate or Upamecano – who is a better target?
We here at Anfield Central have long been fans of 21-year-old Konate. In fact, he was twice highlighted as a good fit for the club in previous articles – firstly as a Dejan Lovren replacement in July, then as a van Dijk replacement in October.
While Upamecano has been highlighted, and rightly so, as one of the best young defenders in the world recently, Konate is a somewhat less-known quantity.
This is largely due to an injury which kept him out from October to May of last season. In 2018/19, he had actually overtaken Upamecano in the Leipzig pecking order.
In fact, Leipzig conceded fewer goals in 2018/19 than in 2019/20.
Die Roten Bullen conceded 29 times in 2018/19. The following season, they conceded 37 times. However, this may not tell the full story, as they actually had an expected goals against of 39.65, compared to 37.58 the following campaign.
Yes, he may have had luck in his favour. But this does prove that there is not much difference in quality between the pair.
Konate’s 2018/19 season was one of the most promising seen by a young centre-back in recent memory. He made 27 starts and one sub appearance in the league, regularly partnering Willi Orban at the heart of the defence.
The then 19-year-old made an impressive 1.6 tackles (winning 1.3 of them) and 2.1 interceptions per game. He also made 4.3 clearances and was only dribbled past 0.4 times per match. He also made only two errors leading to shots all season.
Konate is also very good on the ball. In 18/19, he completed 80% of his passes. This has risen to 86% this season. He is also completing an impressive eight long balls per 90 this season, albeit with a small sample size.
Konate is 6-foot-three-inches tall. He uses his height to good effect and has won on average 81% of his aerial duels in the last three seasons. In comparison, Virgil van Dijk has won an average of 78% throughout his time with Liverpool.
Konate’s stats are very impressive before one even takes his age into consideration. He does not turn 22 until May next year, meaning that he is still likely to improve a huge amount.
Even if Upamecano is still a slightly better player, Konate will probably be much cheaper in January.
If Liverpool do decide to make the move, and the credibility of the source makes it very possible, then they will undoubtedly reap the rewards.
Let’s just hope that those injuries stay away, as another injury-prone defender is the last thing Liverpool need.