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Africa Sports News of Saturday, 29 May 2021


Klopp says Liverpool new boy Konate can challenge for starting place immediately

Liverpool new boy Ibrahima Konate Liverpool new boy Ibrahima Konate

Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool new boy Ibrahima Konate will immediately challenge for a place in the Reds’ starting line-up.

The 22-year-old’s move to Anfield was confirmed on Friday, with Liverpool having triggered the release clause - understood to be worth in excess of £35 million ($50m) - in the defender’s contract with RB Leipzig.

Konate has agreed a five-year contract and will move to Merseyside on July 1, becoming the first signing of the summer for the 2019-20 Premier League champions.

Reflecting on the move, Klopp told the club website: “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.

“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 [Phillips], Rhys [Williams] and Ozan [Kabak] 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.

“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.”

What are Liverpool’s centre-back options now?
Having struggled at times to find two central defensive options this season, Klopp could find himself with an embarrassment of riches heading into the new campaign.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are closing in on a return after both suffering serious knee injuries last autumn, while Joel Matip should be back from an ankle problem in time for the start of pre-season training in July.

Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, so impressive during the closing weeks of the campaign, remain at the club, with decisions to be made on their respective futures.

Williams, 20, is likely to be loaned out, as is Sepp van den Berg, who moved to Championship club Preston for the second half of the season.

Ben Davies, meanwhile, has not played a single minute since moving the other way, with Klopp giving the 25-year-old time to settle. Davies has also been troubled by a calf injury, though it is understood that he has now completed his recovery. It remains to be seen whether Liverpool give the former Preston man a chance to prove himself.

Billy Koumetio, the 18-year-old Frenchman, is viewed as a player with significant potential, but is still some way of being ready for first-team football despite making his debut in the Champions League at Midtjylland last December.

Liverpool have already informed Schalke they will not be taking up the £18m ($23m) option in Kabak’s loan deal. The Turkey international will return to Germany, though it is understood he has interest from a number of clubs about a permanent move this summer.