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Reds Column I

Ibrahima Konaté (The Reds Summer 2021 Signing)

Liverpool Fc (The Reds) roared back to finish third in the Premier League 2020-21 Season and secured Champions League Football for the next Season; given that at one point they were languishing down in eighth (around March 2021).

The last Season itself was onerous with VAR controversies, fixture congestion nightmares and the notable European League Super League Fiasco that further compounded the Reds woes.

In addition; the effects of COVID-19 Pandemic also had a massive impact on the Reds finances (like every Clubs).

After starting last Season as Defending English Champions; the numerous untimely injuries in the side threatened even to derail the Reds campaign as they faced the prospect of missing European Football for the next Season.

Season-ending injuries to Virgil Van Djik, Joe Gomez and Joël Matip had left the Club in a precarious position of not having any Senior Centre Backs to call upon.

This also thereby contributed to their Doomed Premier League Title Defence and eventually surrender their Premier League Crown to Manchester City Fc!

The Club as such had to utilise an inexperienced line-up that included the Reds Youth Academy Players like Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams for the most parts of last Season.

Also, the Reds had to utilise Jordan Henderson and especially Fabinho as Makeshift Centre Backs during last Season.

The Reds though shored up their defences during the final days of the Winter Transfer Window 2021 by signing Ben Davies (for an initial fee of £500,000 (approx.) plus £1 Million (approx.) in performance related add-ons) from Preston North End Fc as well as signed Ozan Kabak from FC Schalke 04 on loan for the remainder of the 2020–21 Season.

The deal to sign Kabak was reportedly worth £1 Million (approx.) plus £500,000 (approx.) in performance related add-ons as well as the option to buy with the price set at approximately £18 Million (approx.) which could rise up to £27 Million (approx.) with add-ons.

However; Ben Davies is yet to make his Reds appearance and sustained untimely injuries during the latter part of last Season.

Also despite performing reasonably well, Kabak missed the final 5 games of last Season due to an unspecified injury.

The Defensive Trio (Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip) are set to return back to the side during the Preseason (after recovering from their respective long-term injuries).

As such; after securing their Champions League berth for the next Season, there were numerous reports that suggested that the Reds decided not to trigger the option to sign Kabak for £18 Million (approx.) which may seem quiet harsh to the young Turkish International.

If these reports are believed to be true, then Kabak in all likelihood will be expected to return to Germany to seek other avenues out of FC Schalke 04 and (especially after the German Bundesliga side got relegated last Season) the German Club will be looking to offload the player to raise funds.

Rhys Williams and especially Nathaniel Phillips had done a commendable job to step up in place of the injured Senior Centre Backs last Season.

But the Club prefers to carefully nurture the talent of Rhys Williams and there are notions that the 24 year old Nathaniel Phillips might not consider sitting in the bench (especially with Ben Davies waiting in the wings).

Furthermore; the Reds will look to avoid the grave mistake of not reinforcing their defence before the 2020-21 Season began (and after Dejan Lovren left the Reds to join FC Zenit Saint Petersburg (around July 2020)).

Moreover; the Defensive Trio are returning from serious injuries and there is absolutely no certainty whether they are able to play at a similar highest level on a consistent basis (prior to their respective injuries).

Not to mention; Matip (particularly) and Gomez has struggled with numerous injuries for many years.

Considering every factors (including the cordial business relationship between the Reds Owners and RB Leipzig Owners); it makes perfect sense of the reports that suggests that the Reds are at an advanced stage of signing Ibrahima Konaté from the last Season’s German Bundesliga runners-up – RB Leipzig.

The reports also further suggest that the Reds decided to pay the buyout clause of around £34 Million (approx.) in one instalment as per the demands of RB Leipzig and agreed a 5 year contract with the young French International much earlier.

But as per the reports; Konaté is expected to complete his move to the Reds after he returns from competing at the European Under-21 Championship with France International Under-21 Team.

 

Player Profile: Ibrahima Konaté

Started his career with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard but left the French Club to join RB Leipzig around June 2017 on a Free Transfer.

The right-footed young Frenchman primarily plays as a Centre Back on the right side of a Back Four or a Back Three. 

Besides being a ball playing Centre Back; the youngster is known to win most of his aerial duels and cuts an imposing figure at the back.

Blessed with the pace to match the quickest of attackers; the recently turned 22 year old is also known to refuse being bullied by experienced strikers and is able to play out from the back comfortably under immense pressure with excellent composure on the ball.

These are some of the skill sets that are relatable to the Reds Star Van Dijk as well as make perfect sense on the Reds willingness to sign Konaté as early as possible.

The young Frenchman forged a formidable partnership alongside compatriot Dayot Upamecano (who recently agreed to join German Bundesliga side FC Bayern Munich from the next Season).

 

Past Player Performance: Ibrahima Konaté

Even though Konaté has won numerous plaudits around the Europe; yet there is an area of caution in terms of his number of appearances as the young Frenchman made just 8 appearances last Season for RB Leizpig due to hip related injuries.

He however has improved a lot with the ball especially his tactical awareness while working with Julian Nagelsmann (Former RB Leipzig).

The last appearance of Konaté for RB Leipzig ended in a bitter 1-4 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal 2020-21 Final.

 

Verdict: If the reports are true that the Reds are very close to signing Konaté; then it is also understandable why the Reds had to quickly wrap up the signing of the young French International even though the Player is currently playing at the European Under-21 Championship and the transfer window for the Premier League opens only from 09 June 2021.

As mentioned earlier; injuries to Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip had left the Reds without a Senior Centre Back.

And if the Reds can pull off the transfer of Konaté, (besides being a massive coup and being the Reds first Summer 2021 Signing) the Club will be signing a Player that:

  • Is a tall, strong, quick, young defender with the potential to be World Class
  • Can be future Reds Star and eventually take over the mantle from Van Dijk as the Club will be hoping that they are signing their potential Van Dijk replacement
  • (In the meantime) Has the opportunity to learn from (arguably the best Defender ever at the moment) Van Dijk
  • (As per reports) His Contract with RB Leipzig has a clause that the Player can leave the German Club, if the Reds or any Club can pay the buyout clause of around £34 Million (approx.) in one instalment; which is modest price for a highly rated youngster

The last thing the Reds need is more unnecessary headaches over the fitness issues of their high profile Centre Backs especially after barely surviving last Season which was blighted by too many untimely injuries in the side.

Yet, it is also important to note that under the watchful eyes of Jürgen Klopp and Fenway Sports Group (FSG); the Reds Recruitment Team has rarely put a foot wrong.

 

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