Ibrahima Konate close to joining Liverpool for £36m from RB Leipzig; a deal could be completed in next few days; 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
Friday 28 May 2021 14:27, UK
Liverpool have triggered Ibrahima Konate's £36m release clause and hope to finalise a deal for the RB Leipzig defender in the next few days.
Discussions are under way between Liverpool and Leipzig for the 22-year-old centre-back.
Konate made 21 appearances for Leipzig this season, including eight Bundesliga starts as the club finished second - 13 points behind champions Bayern Munich.
The France U21 international would boost 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.
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.
When examining Liverpool's transfer options this summer, Sky Sports pundit and former captain Jamie Carragher said centre-back was one area the club need to strengthen in.
Carragher said: "Liverpool will certainly improve, there is no doubt about that. As soon as you bring in three centre-backs who are already at the club that will improve them massively.
"But we keep talking about centre-backs, Graeme (Souness) mentioned Van Dijk, the bigger problem for me is at the other end of the pitch. Liverpool have not had injuries there.
"More often than not, it is the same front three with Diogo Jota coming in. He is the only one of the front three that has been injured out of the attacking players.
"That is the bigger worry because I am sure that the defensive frailties that we have seen at times this season will be rectified by players coming back and Liverpool signing a player in the summer in that position.
"The big worry is that there is a changing of the guard. Not so much this team coming to an end but just that it has to be freshened up.
"I think through the centre of the team - centre-back, central midfield and certainly someone up top to go straight into the starting line-up and break that front three up.
"They have been amazing for four or five years but as we have highlighted on shows before, very rarely do we see front threes stay together as long as these have. They have been amazing for Liverpool but the lack of goals is the biggest worry for me."
Meanwhile, fellow Sky Sports pundit and ex-Reds skipper Jamie Redknapp says: "They have got to recruit a couple of players and they lose Wijnaldum, but I think Liverpool are going to come back very strong next year."