Ibrahima Konate admits his phone is ‘ringing all over the place’ after news of Liverpool’s £33m move for him broke but the RB Leipzig defender insists he’s fully focused on France’s Under-21 Euro campaign
Ibrahima Konate said his phone was ‘ringing all over the place’ as news of Liverpool’s £33million move for him emerged but insists he is fully focused on France’s Under-21 Euro campaign.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are looking to bolster their defensive options and have identified the 21-year-old RB Leipzig centre-back as a primary target with hopes to conclude a deal before the summer transfer window.
Sportsmail understands there is some way to go before any deal is concluded but Konate does have a release clause of £40m in his Leipzig contract and the Bundesliga club will stick to that rather than negotiate.
Ibrahima Konate insists he is fully focused on France Under-21 duty despite Liverpool interest
The central defender played against Russia on Sunday as France won at the tournament
The defender is currently in Hungary for the group stages of the Under-21 European Championship. France lost their opening match of the tournament 1-0 to Denmark but responded with a 2-0 victory over Russia on Sunday.
They next face Iceland on Wednesday afternoon and a top-two finish in their group will carry them into the quarter-finals to be staged in May.
And Konate didn’t sound too enthusiastic about all the attention when the Liverpool story broke on Monday.
He told L’Equipe: ‘I woke up, I saw my phone ringing all over the place. I just wanted to tell them, “Hey, I played yesterday, I’m tired, leave me alone”.
‘Frankly, I don’t even watch this. We can’t focus on that, there are the Euros and then my return to the club. You have to focus on that and not on the external things.’
Konate has impressed for RB Leipzig, who sit second in Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich
Jurgen Klopp is moving quickly to bring in a centre-back ahead of the summer window
Leipzig, who sit second and four points off Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, are understood to be aware of interest in their centre-back but if Liverpool choose to pay his release clause, no talks would be needed.
But there are still other considerations to take into account, including wages for the 21-year-old defender plus his role going forward at Anfield given the returns of Van Dijk and Gomez.
Furthermore, Liverpool face competition from Premier League rivals, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Other defenders being monitored by Liverpool include Villarreal’s 24-year-old Pau Torres.
Konate moved from French club Sochaux back in 2017 and has impressed in the heart of Leipzig’s defence despite injuries limiting his game time.
Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk have both been sidelined with long-term injuries this campaign
The crisis at the back has plagued Liverpool’s title defence, with Klopp’s side sitting seventh
Konate has featured under 100 times for Leipzig but he has attracted plenty of interest from a number of European giants.
And after gaining vital experience both in Bundesliga and the Champions League, Konate would be expected to battle it out for a first-team spot straight away with the likes of Van Dijk and Gomez.
But the Reds also see how valuable his signing could prove in the long run as they look to battle it out at the summit for years to come.
Liverpool brought in both Ozan Kabak – on loan with an option to buy – and Ben Davies in January.
But the Reds were always likely to bring in another centre-back on a permanent deal in the summer following their problems this season.
Konate dispossesses Neymar during Leipzig’s Champions League meeting with PSG
The 21-year-old tackles Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford back in December’s clash
Both Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have been forced to fill in at centre-back, which has cost them dearly in midfield.
And this lack of balance throughout the side has seen Klopp’s men implode in the title race.
After storming to their first Premier League title last season, the Reds are now in danger of missing out on European football altogether.
The Anfield outfit currently sit seventh in the top flight, five points off a rejuvenated Chelsea in fourth.