Ibrahima Konate is looking at a pivotal career crossroads

  • Ibrahima Konate is still a very important player for Liverpool but he must determine what kind of asset he wants to become 
  • His patchy injury history has not helped him continue elevating his game as high as it can clearly go
  • There will be a battle to take over the reigns from VVD in a few years
Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League
Everton FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

Liverpool signed Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig in late May of 2021 for his release clause of €41.5 million. It was seen as a coup at the time as he was one of the most sought after young defenders in Europe at the time.

Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip were the preferred centre-back pair for Jurgen Klopp but an eye for the future was required in the move as well. Throw in the the clear physical gifts that Ibou has and it was clear why the Reds brought him in.

3 years on from the deal to sign him and Konate is looking at divergent career paths from this point forward. Let's take a look at how he got here and what's to come.

Konate had shown sky-high potential from the beginning

While the Frenchman was eased into the squad as that was Klopp's preference with new signings, we could all see what he brought to the table.

Size, strength and speed were on display each time he stepped on the pitch in addition to an underrated ability on the ball. Being able to learn from the likes of van Dijk and Matip was also a blessing for the mental side of things for him.

By the end of his first season, he was a fixture in the Liverpool lineup in Europe as they reached the Champions League Final before falling to Real Madrid. He started every UCL match from the Quarterfinal 1st leg through to the Final. In the Premier League, he wasn't so lucky.

Vinicius Junior, Ibrahima Konate
Liverpool FC v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final 2021/22 / John Berry/GettyImages

The 2022-23 season once again saw him playing second fiddle to the top paring but there were many signs he was the future of the Liverpool defense.

He could handle the physical forwards of the Premier League and he was growing as a player weekly. However, he could never seemingly give himself a real opportunity to usurp Matip because of constant injuries.

He appeared 24 times in all comps having missed time with knee and muscle injuries. It was frustrating to watch as just when he would string together consecutive strong outings he would go down.

The breakout season came in 2023-24 but ended on a low-note

When you examine Konate's 2032/24 season, it's hard to really decipher what you're looking at. He played a career high 37 times which was fantastic.

Joel Matip going down with a torn ACL allowed him to slot next to van Dijk as the undisputed No. 2 centre-half. There were times during this season that he was truly playing incredible football and talks of VVD-Ibou being the best pairing around floated into conversations.

He started and played a big role in the League Cup triumph when "Klopp's Kids" stole a lot of the headlines. Konate dominated the Chelsea frontline that day as he was almost impervious.

Ibrahima Konate, Mykhaylo Mudryk
Chelsea v Liverpool - Carabao Cup Final / Robin Jones/GettyImages

It was further proof of the player he had become and still could be. Yet, through all of this, the slow and steady rise of Jarell Quansah brought an interesting debate into focus.

The young defender has been a revelation this season for Liverpool as he played with a maturity that was unexpected. He rarely looked out of place when given a chance in the first team. His rise has coincided with Konate going in the opposite direction.

Ibou missed the Manchester City draw at Anfield in early March through injury, and Quansah played so well in that game.

Konate would only start 3 of the final 10 Premier League matches after that as Klopp preferred Quansah or Joe Gomez. The few times that Konate would get a start or on the pitch, he looked lost. Too many simple mistakes had worked their way into his game.

He seemingly lost all of his confidence when on the ball. This indecision hampered the side and contributed to him needing to be on the bench to help the flow of the side.

With Liverpool seeking a new centre-back, what's next for Konate?

So that brings us here. What's next for the Frenchman? Liverpool have been linked to a host of defenders across Europe and it looks likely a new face will be joining the club this summer at some point.

Klopp is gone, the man that brought Konate here. He has to start at square one under Arne Slot. Perhaps playing for France at the Euros this summer will get his mind right and if he gets a chance to shine it could go a long way to restoring his deflated confidence.

However, based on current form and setup, he is arguably the third central defender at best and could be fourth depending on who comes in.

Now 25, he should be entering his prime with no playing time concerns. That is not the case. There is more mystery about his Reds future now then when he arrived at the club. He still has a top class celling that is for sure, but Slot and his staff will need to push the right buttons to get him back on that path.

If they succeed Konate could reaffirm his status as the VVD heir apparent. If not and the up-and-down play continues into next season, serious questions will be asked about his viability in Red.