A report from Bild, as cited and transcribed by the Mirror, suggests that with each passing game, ‘desperate’ RB Leipzig grow more and more resigned to losing Ibrahima Konate.
The Frenchman has been on Jurgen Klopp’s radar for some time now but as the summer window edges closer, so does a move to Anfield for the young defender.
He has already agreed on personal terms with Liverpool but Michael Edwards is yet to reach an agreement with RB Leipzig regarding payment of the release clause as there are questions over Konate and his injury history.
While the club rates the 21-year-old and is in no doubt he’ll succeed at Liverpool, they want the price lowered to offset the risk of signing a centre-back that has already missed 405 days through injury despite only making his professional debut in February 2017.
Why are Liverpool looking to pay circa £34million to sign Konate?
Signing someone like Konate is hugely exciting considering how good he is physically.
Standing at 1.94m (6ft4), he’s a giant plain and simple. The Frenchman equals van Dijk for height and is thicker set than Joel Matip so it’s clear to see why he is so dominant in the air but that said, his ground game can use some work.
Playing for RB Leipzig, he’s used to moving the ball on quickly which might contribute to his 86% pass completion rate in the Bundesliga which is quite low among elite centre-backs in Europe.
Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez recorded 89%, 91% and 89% respectively last season in the Premier League. Training with the stars that Liverpool have will only help Konate improve and not just in passing.
What does Konate do better than most in the Bundesliga?
The French giant is quick and more aggressive than most defenders in Germany which will translate well to the Premier League which punishes centre-backs that are too passive and pedestrian.
Konate is very good at winning the ball cleanly from behind as he wraps his long legs around his opponent to intercept the ball before it reaches its mark.
This means that players need to constantly be on the move and often peel off to try and run the channel between him and the fullback closest to him.
While this can be an effective way to counter a defender like Konate, his 1.94m frame can get moving and he has no trouble matching most forwards for pace.
It goes without saying that the former Sochaux man is a beast in the air. This season, Konate has an 88% success rate when challenging in aerial duels which is better than even van Dijk and Matip while it’s vastly better than Joe Gomez’s 53%.
Van Dijk and Matip boast mean 76% and 70% win rates in aerial duels and Bundesliga forwards might not be as challenging as strikers in the Premier League but posting a success rate of close to 90% is practically unheard of.
This is largely due to his height and strength but an underrated part of his game is positioning under high balls and his ability to predict where and when a cross will be slung into the box making him the overwhelming favourite to win the ball.
What does Konate need to work on if he joins Liverpool?
While his aggression means that he’s able to pinch the ball from behind with impressive regularity, he does struggle to win 1v1 ground duels in the same way that van Dijk has become famous for.
It’s in this area of his game that he has the most room for improvement especially given how important one versus one defending is in Liverpool’s system. The way the Reds play relies hugely on van Dijk, Gomez and Matip being able to handle any forward in the world on their own in dangerous areas.
Konate will also need to become better with the ball as Liverpool’s centre-backs essentially play as quarterbacks as they sling the ball forward to the likes of Sadio Mane and Mo Salah on the counter-attack.
In short, Konate is going to be one helluva player but he, like any other potential signing, has room for improvement and will need to get used to the radical changes that come with being dropped into Jurgen Klopp’s intensive system.