Liverpool have announced the signing of defender Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig having triggered his release clause of £36million.
The 22-year-old French defender has agreed a ‘long-term contract’ with the Reds from July 1, having finalised personal terms and passing a medical.
Jurgen Klopp has been looking to strengthen in central defence after losing Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to injury last season and the deal for Konate represents the first major summer investment by any of the Premier League’s top sides.
Liverpool have announced the signing of RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate on Friday
Konate told the official club website: ‘I’m really happy to be joining such a massive club like Liverpool.
‘It’s a really exciting moment for me and my family and I am really looking forward to meeting my new teammates, the staff and getting started on this new chapter.
‘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 teammates, 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.’
Jurgen Klopp admitted he was delighted to bring in a player of such immense quality and potential.
Konate, who played 21 times for Leipzig last season, has been on Liverpool’s radar for a while
‘I’m really pleased we’ve been able to add a player of Ibrahima’s quality to our squad and he is someone I’ve admired for a long time, ever since I first became aware of his potential when he was at Sochaux,’ Klopp told the club’s official website.
‘After the problems we had with injuries in the centre-half position last season, there’s no doubt it was clear it was an area of the team we needed to strengthen – but I first have to say that the job Nat, Rhys and Ozan did was incredible. Unbelievable really.
‘In Ibrahima we are signing a player who will add to the quality we already have here. His physical attributes are very impressive; he is quick, he is very strong and he is dominant in the air.
‘He comes to us after playing more than 90 times for Leipzig in the Bundesliga and European football. I’m sure that number would have been more but for some injury, but even so that means he already has experience of what it takes to compete in two outstandingly difficult competitions.
Konate will bolster Jurgen Klopp’s (R) defence which struggled with injuries last season
‘He also played for a team in the Champions League in high-pressure matches, who have a similar football vision to ourselves.
‘I am confident we are signing a player who can play for us right away, but he is a boy of 22 years of age who has room to improve because of his massive potential. I know that’s something he is eager to work on with us to become an even better player.
‘For me, that’s really exciting because I have seen how good he is already and I’m looking forward to working with him when he joins up with us in pre-season.’
The deal will see Ozan Kabak return to Schalke following his loan spell at Anfield, but Kabak has offers from Premier League and Bundesliga sides after filling in for the likes of Van Dijk admirably.
Jurgen Klopp has snubbed the chance to sign defender Ozan Kabak on a permanent transfer
Kabak had convivial talks with Klopp who has been encouraging of the young Turkey international, appreciative that he was brought into Liverpool’s line up at a difficult time.
Injuries meant Kabak could not play as significant part as he hoped but his performances have still prompted plenty of interest.
Yet the transfer of Konate is the first deal in a summer expected to be busy in the transfer market, with the likes of Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish linked with big-money moves away, as is Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland.
Pep Guardiola has built his success on possession football and has great admiration for the £100million-rated Grealish.
Varane tops United’s list of defensive targets, but the key is whether they can get Madrid’s £60m price down for a player who has one year left on his contract.
Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish (L) and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane have been linked with moves
Konate, meanwhile, is currently in France preparing for his country’s European U21 Championship quarter-final against Holland next week.
The 22-year-old featured 21 times RB Leipzig this season but only started eight matches in the Bundesliga as Bayern Munich-bound Dayot Upamecano and Willi Orban established themselves as the first-choice centre-back pairing.
Konate’s Leipzig side played the Reds twice this season in the Champions League, but the France Under-21 international did not feature in either game.
He will bolster a back-line hit by injuries in the 2020-21 season, with Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip all suffering serious injuries, which limited them to just 22 league appearances combined.
Leipzig are already understood to be looking for a replacement for Konate with France also keen that the deal is wrapped up quickly so he can focus on his international commitments.
Ironically, the Bundesliga club have shown an interest in Kabak, who has been on loan at Liverpool since January.
Former Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum meanwhile is expected to agree a three year contract with Barcelona after his agent held further discussions in Spain on Tuesday. Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain had also shown interest.
Barca are also looking to finalise terms with Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero and his club mate defender Eric Garcia.