Ibrahima Konate joins Liverpool for £36m from RB Leipzig; the 22-year-old French centre-back was an unused substitute in both matches when the two sides met in the Champions League earlier this year
Saturday 29 May 2021 16:19, UK
Liverpool have signed centre-back Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig after agreeing to pay his £36m release clause.
Konate, 22, made 21 appearances for Leipzig this season including eight Bundesliga starts as the club finished second, 13 points behind champions Bayern Munich.
He will begin a long-term contract from July 1, subject to international clearance and a successful work permit application process.
"I'm really happy to be joining such a massive club like Liverpool," Konate said.
"It's a really exciting moment for me and my family and I am really looking forward to meeting my new team-mates, the staff and getting started on this new chapter."
The France U21 international's arrival strengthens Jurgen Klopp's defensive options, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all hoping to return for the start of next season after missing the majority of the 2020-21 campaign through injury.
The injuries saw Fabinho and Jordan Henderson at times deployed at centre-back, while Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams were the defensive pairing at the tail-end of the season as Liverpool secured a top-four place and Champions League football next year.
Liverpool had signed Ben Davies permanently and Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke as defensive cover in January.
Davies is yet to make his Liverpool debut, he was an unused substitute eight times, while Kabak made 13 appearances but looks set to return to Germany despite the club having the option to buy the 21-year-old this summer.
Konate is currently with France's U21 squad for the UEFA European Championships.
He added: "Right now, my focus is on the U21 European Championships with France, but after this competition I know I will be joining one of the best teams in the world and that gives me a great feeling.
"I have worked very hard for many years to get to this point, but I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at RB Leipzig and all the people I worked with there - the coaches, my team-mates, the staff and especially the fans.
"Your support helped me grow up during my time there and become not only a better player, but a better man and I will always be grateful for it."
At Leipzig, Bayern-bound Dayot Upamecano and Willi Orban played most of the season at centre-back, while Konate suffered an ankle injury in December which kept him out for two months.
Upon his return, Konate - whose contract was due to expire in June 2023 - remained an unused substitute in both of Leipzig's Champions League last-16 matches against Liverpool.
It was no secret Liverpool would be signing a new centre-back this summer after the defensive injury crisis which derailed their Premier League title defence last season.
Long-term knee injuries to first-choice central defenders Van Dijk and Gomez in October and November 2020 respectively meant Klopp was forced to use an incredible 16 different centre-back parings in the previous top-flight campaign.
Elsewhere, despite the club offering Adrian a new deal, the Spaniard may return home this summer, meaning Klopp could be looking for a new back-up goalkeeper to Alisson if, as expected, promising youngster Caoimhin Kelleher is sent out on loan next season.
Meanwhile, Gini Wijnaldum's expected departure on a free to either Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern Munich leaves a sizeable hole in midfield, one that may reportedly be filled by Brighton's Yves Bissouma and then there is the issue of Roberto Firmino's diminishing attacking returns.
Recruiting players who have learned their game within the Red Bull organisation has become a theme for Liverpool. Takumi Minamino was the previous one but Sadio Mane had been at Salzburg too. Naby Keita was at Salzburg and Leipzig before arriving at Anfield.
Liverpool need no extra reason to pursue Ibrahima Konate, of course. This is a central defender of speed, strength and skill, who, at the age of 22, is ready to take the next step. Already there is excitement at the potential of a partnership with Virgil van Dijk.
But it is no coincidence that Liverpool continue to turn to the same clubs when they make their moves in the transfer market. The Red Bull teams ascribe to the philosophy of Ralf Rangnick, the man who became director of football at both clubs in the summer of 2012.