Ibrahima Konate’s stock has been quietly rising in Germany, and now it appears as though the RB Leipzig centre-back is close to taking the next step.
The Frenchman has attracted interest from all over Europe, but Liverpool are understood to be closing in on a deal to lure the 21-year-old over to Anfield ahead of the 2021/22 season to try to prevent a repeat of this year’s injury crisis.
Let’s take a look at what there is to know about Konate.
In an interview with UMM, he spent a good few minutes waxing lyrical about Ramos and comparing him to Dragon Ball Z character Vegeta – the manga series is about as important to him as Ramos.
He also brought up Ramos in an earlier interview with Onze Mondial, in which he also admitted to studying both Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti as well.
The first thing you’ll notice about Konate is that he’s literally enormous. He stands at 6’4 and looks like he eats nothing but metal for breakfast.
Konate is one of the strongest centre-backs in the Bundesliga, but what makes him ever scarier is that he knows how to carry his skyscraper frame around the pitch with real ease. He’s no Usain Bolt, but it’d take a brave man to try and beat him in a foot race.
Because of this, some fans have compared Konate to Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk.
Despite being just 21 years old, Konate comes with a lengthy injury history which is a little alarming.
During his days in the academy in Sochaux Konate needed to undergo surgery, and he has since been under the knife twice to address a hip injury which bothered him in the 2019/20 season.
He featured in just eight games last season and missed the best part of two months with an ankle problem midway through 2020/21.
With so many injury problems in his career already, Konate knows he needs to work on strengthening his body to withstand an entire season, but that’s not the only consistency the Frenchman struggles with.
He admits he needs to improve his positioning, communication and overall vision of a game, but given he is just 21 years old, that’s not exactly something to be concerned about. They all come with age.
Konate is keen to get over these teething problems, and everyone around him has faith that he’ll iron them all out soon enough.
Leipzig have picked up plenty of bargains in the past, but according to former Red Bull chief Ralf Rangnick, Konate could be one of the best.
“I’m particularly delighted with our coup in signing Ibrahima Konate,” Rangnick told Sportbild in 2019. “We got him on a free transfer from Sochaux.
“He is so good that he could play for Real Madrid or Barcelona one day.”
Most of the world sees Konate as a future star, and the France defender knows he can make it big if he continues to work hard.
“In football, it’s not a secret, if you work and give yourself goals… Well yes, I think I can do it,” he told Onze Mondial. “Well, I hope. It’s all up to me and no one else.”
He also lives his life by one motto: “Not everyone who worked hard was rewarded, but everyone who succeeded worked hard.”
Konate’s mother has always called him ‘Ibu’ and managed to get that name to stick in Leipzig after coming to the club and saying it in front of some of the staff at the club. That’s a fine nickname.
However, some of his Leipzig teammates like to take their own twist on it. Some at the club have been spotted calling Konate ‘Ibuprofen’.
Can’t really see that one living on in England…
After leaving Sochaux for Leipzig in 2017, Konate initially struggled to adapt to life in a new country, but he told Goal that he always thought his mental strength would carry him through.
He found life hard even in Leipzig’s Under-19s, but chose to tackle each obstacle head on and forced himself to adapt as fast as possible.
Konate admits to struggling to pick up German initially, but he already has a very strong grasp of English. It’s almost as if he has been preparing to move to the Premier League.
Konate admits to actively disliking football until he was 11 years old, after which his brother helped convince him to give it a go.
He fell in love with the Brazilian Ronaldo and started off as a striker, but was shifted back into midfield at 13. He stayed there for a while and was signed by Sochaux as a midfielder.
At Sochaux, coaches looked to take advantage of his enormous size by moving him into defence, and it’s safe to say it’s all worked out pretty well for Konate.