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Ibrahima Konaté: Can Didier Deschamps Use The Liverpool Big Guy For France’s Revival?

Ibrahima Konaté 3

Like his 23 other partners, Ibrahima Konaté participated in the France team. Konaté, who started with Raphaël Varane against Morocco, was appointed as an extra-time substitute for France against Argentina. Ibrahima was also one of the holders during the tactical implementation carried out by Didier Deschamps out of sight. But during the finals, he was sick and couldn’t play (even featured as a late substitute shortly after Messi’s second goal). In this article, we see if the addition of Ibrahima Konaté to France’s future team can help with their World Cup comeback. 

Ibrahima Konaté: Would He Have Made A Difference For The 2022 Finals? 

Quick Facts:

  • Age: 23 years old 
  • Position: defender 
  • Current Club: Liverpool 
  • Salary: approximately 2 million euros per year
  • Awards: FA Cup 2021-2022 (Liverpool) English League Cup 2021-2022 (Liverpool) Community Shield 2022-2023 (Liverpool) 
  • Height and weight: 1.94 m, 95 kg

Ibrahima Konaté is a central defender by trade. He logically took a step back during his youth at Sochaux, emphasizing his power and his heading game to win although he began his training as a defensive midfielder. Tall from the top of his 1.94m, powerful and fast, he appreciates the duels but also the covers and admits to being inspired by the defensive leader of Liverpool, the Nederland player named Virgil Van Dijk who is considered one of the best global defenders. 

Ibrahima Konaté’s next World Cup predictions:

The Liverpool central defender who was called up in the wake of Raphaël Varane’s soreness, was able to discover the blue jersey against Austria and Croatia, rewarding a clear progression already welcomed by his coach at Liverpool. 

Then, Didier Deschamps still did not know if he will have a full squad to face Argentina as Ibrahima Konaté was one amongst 5 players who were called off due to a viral flu that was spreading amongst players. Nonetheless, Ibrahima was called to play as a late substitute shortly after Messi’s second goal. 

Now the question is if Didier Deschamps will call Konate for the next world cup?

Ibrahima Konaté had already taken advantage of players with serious injuries to join the France team for the first time in September 2022 for the League of Nations matches. He is capable and we know that he shows versatility in a defense at 3 as at 4 will be a precious asset for Didier Deschamps.  

Impressive with Liverpool and ambitious, the 23-year-old defender seems to need a bit more experience because he hadn’t played in any major international competitions. In addition to playing only 4 matches since the start of the season, if Ibrahima Konaté made his mark in Liverpool, he would still be considered non-established with only 2 appearances in the Premier League this season against Arsenal and Tottenham. 

His position as a right-handed central defender is intelligent though, according to Guido Schafer. He is also exceptionally skilled at passing and showing strength in the air. 

Ibrahima Konaté participated in his first World Cup: 

This 2022 World Cup was Ibrahima Konaté’s first match in the competition since he replaced Varane, who was still considered physically fit after his return from injury, during the French team’s first match against Australia in the group stage. 

Just two months after his first selection for the France team, Ibrahima Konaté’s hopes of winning the World Cup were ruined by Argentina or should we say…Lionel Messi specifically. But it was not because the Liverpool player didn’t lack assets. Some can argue that Argentina needed a miracle, and Messi’s magic prevailed. 

After Varane, Ibrahima Konaté also replaced Dayot Upamecano: 

By December 17th, the central defender replaced defender Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Adrien Rabiot after a small epidemic with a flu-like condition was detected.  Didier Deschamps first trusted Ibrahima Konaté to support Raphaël Varane in central defense for the boiling World Cup semi-final. 

He was on vacation when called to play for France: 

Ibrahima Konaté interrupted his vacation to taste the joys of being called at the last minute to the French team to replace Raphaël Varane. 

The Liverpool defender was with his friends on a boat in Greece. Konate said: “We were having fun, laughing. At some point, I happened to pick up my phone. I saw that I had two missed calls. Since I didn’t know the number, I decided to call back. For five minutes, I was a little lost, I saw my friends dancing…as it was confidential, I couldn’t tell my family, but when the news came out in the media, it was enormous pride, for me, my family, my friends: everyone. When I arrived here, I was very well received. I know a lot of players because I played with some in the youth selections, in Paris or Sochaux”. 

Didier Deschamps was very confident in Ibrahima Konaté’s abilities: 

The defender who is tall in size from the top of his 1.94 meters, trained at Paris FC and then at Sochaux had only two small selections before this 2022 World Cup. However, this does not prevent France’s football manager from considering the 23-year-old as a pillar of his new defense as the young defender displays calm, zen, and confidence before this first major international competition. Not bad for Deschamps who is often accused of lacking openness and not trusting young people. 

Unknown to the general public, but on the radar for several years, the 23-year-old hit the eye of the coach after a remarkable season with Liverpool (out of 29 games played only 26 starts), and finalist of the last Champions League.

Ibrahima Konaté nonetheless has not only earned Didier Deschamps’s trust. “He always assured when he was confronted with new situations, whether at Sochaux when he started as a pro, at Leipzig or Liverpool”, noted one of his trainers at Sochaux, Eric Hély, before the start of the World Cup. 

He didn’t use to watch football every day:

Ibrahima Konate didn’t watch any matches before. 

“My teammates in Leipzig blamed me a lot. Afterwards, I understood that it was important, especially with Van Dijk, who often talks to me about the attackers we are going to face. He sometimes says to me: “He plays like this. him, like that…”

On the other hand, I had no idea about these statistics unless it was to make things easier for you during meetings. Sometimes you want to think about something else, but you also have to know how to be focused”, said the 23-year-old. 

He is considered Liverpool’s young phenomenon:

Despite his loss to Argentina, the Frenchman still plays today in one of the biggest clubs in the world: Liverpool, recent finalists of the last Champions League. 

Often crossed out by Jurgen Klopp or Virgil Van Dijk’s defenseman and the superiorly experienced Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konaté has gradually made himself a valuable part of the team. A regular substitute he played a major role in the Reds’ journey in the Premier League, to the Champions League, an epic that ended with a defeat in the final against Real Madrid. 

Ibrahima Konate’s role models:

Sergio Ramos and Virgil van Dijk. 

“Ramos is amazing. What he did at Real impressed me: he is a positive leader, capable of scoring goals, of bringing a lot to his team, on and off the pitch. I remember reading one of his interviews one day where he described himself as a ship’s captain, who arrived at training before everyone else and left after everyone else. It’s definitely inspiring”, stated the Liverpool defender. 

Asked what he learned concretely this season at Liverpool alongside Virgil van Dijk, the 23-year-old stated: “Even if he’s the best defender in the world, it’s not just him who taught me things. The whole group brought me. I also had the chance to evolve alongside Matip and Joe Gomez. They are three experienced players, who have been at Liverpool for a very long time. They all make me grow on a daily basis, but this is only the beginning. Today, I am a player who goes fast, and who is not afraid of the ball, but I can still progress. I had already played with a very high defensive line with Nagelsmann when I was at Leipzig, but this season I really learned so many things. For example, I often look at the statistics and I often noticed that Van Dijk ran less than me during matches. At first, I didn’t understand why, but in fact, it’s just his placement that counted and his game intelligence…”

His club career: 

Ibrahima Konaté was trained at Paris FC before joining Liverpool in 2021 and before joining the FC Sochaux Montbéliard training center in 2014. It is in the Doubs that the defensive midfielder is placed in the axis of the defense where he started in Ligue 2 during the 2016-2017 season. He chose not to extend his contract at the end of his first professional season, and went to Germany for RB Leipzig, which was attracting more and more young French players like Dayot Upamecano (a fresh face for the French defense). In the 2018-2019 season, he won there definitively and  in the summer of 2021 was then transferred to Liverpool for an amount estimated between 35 and 40 million euros.

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