Liverpool went from having no centre-backs to potentially having an abundance of them. Per The Athletic, the Reds are in advanced negotiations to sign Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig. If all goes to plan, he’ll be the eighth senior centre-back within the squad.
Granted, injuries have deprived Jurgen Klopp of his first-choice centre-back options this season, Liverpool do have Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Ozan Kabak, Ben Davies, Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams on their books. Fabinho also did an admirable job at centre-back too.
There will likely be departures this summer. Phillips, for example, will probably feel as though he should be a first-team fixture somewhere after impressing alongside Kabak. After yet another injury-riddled season, Matip might move on. His deal expires in 2024 and the Reds may feel this is the best time to cash in. Williams may go out on loan in order to gain more experience. He’s yet to make his debut for the club, but you’d not be surprised to see Davies moved on once the transfer window opens.
I’ve seen a few suggest Konate’s arrival could mean the club aren’t looking to make Kabak’s loan spell a permanent one. After a ropey start in red, he’s been one of the better players recently. The more you think about it, the more obvious it becomes that a move for the 21-year-old is a no-brainer. Especially when the clause in his deal means he’s available for £18million.
Where else are you finding a centre-back with nearly 100 appearances to his name at 21? These aren’t games at a lower level, either. He’s played for Galatasaray in Europe. He was named as the rookie of the season in the Bundesliga for VfB Stuttgart and he’s already a regular starter for Turkey.
Even if he’s just a squad player, someone of that ability and potential for £18million is a bargain.
He’s versatile too, having played as both a left-sided centre-back and on the right. Kabak just didn’t fill a role, he actually impressed in both positions. Just because Konate is supposedly on his way doesn’t mean there’s no space for the Liverpool No.19.
Konate and Kabak for ~£56m would be *chef's kiss* pic.twitter.com/yD3RNIo3DK
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) March 29, 2021
If anything, it might have been the plan all along. The Reds clearly weren’t sold on Kabak in January after ensuring the clause was an option to buy, not an obligation. It was known that they’d looked at alternatives to the Turkey international for around a similar fee.
Konate was probably the long-term option and Liverpool wanted a secondary option, more of a squad player, for a knockdown price. Combine then and you have two young centre-backs for around £60million.
Manchester City paid more than that for Ruben Dias.
Liverpool spread the cost and, in the process, they spread the risk. Heaping pressure on Konate, a player without a real run of games since 2018/19, makes no sense. It’s why the addition of a second centre-back is a must. They only need one of Konate or Kabak to fulfil their potential for this gamble to be worthwhile. It also removes the reliance on the former to be an instant success and his game time can be managed without the Reds having to use a midfielder in defence.
I really can’t see it being either/or when it comes to Konate and Kabak. If Liverpool are to reclaim their title next season, both will likely be needed.