Liverpool

Signed by Klopp, now worth more than Salah: Liverpool struck gold on “absolute beast”

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Signed by Klopp, now worth more than Salah: Liverpool struck gold on “absolute beast” – opinion

 

 

Anfield is starting to see the true quality of this top-class Klopp signing.

 

It’s getting closer and closer, and no matter the silverware on the line for Liverpool, a sense of poignancy is unavoidable given Jurgen Klopp is approaching the culmination of his tenure.

 

It’s something that seems impossible, like autumn arriving after winter, but it’s the cold hard truth that Liverpool supporters all around are internally wrangling with. Klopp is leaving.

 

In fairness, many fans have probably accepted this inevitability. Chatter surrounding a new manager is at the forefront of online discourse: Xabi Alonso is the frontrunner, and his appointment would galvanise the fanbase and then some.

 

More concerning, however, is the immediate contract situation on the player front, with key trio Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah and skipper Virgil van Dijk all out of contract at the end of the 2024/25 campaign – that’s 14 months away.

 

Salah was pursued by Al-Ittihad last summer, the Saudi Pro League side ravenous to insert the Egyptian goal machine as their figurehead, and while he’s 32 years old in June, a return of 21 goals and 13 assists from 25 starting appearances in all competitions this season hardly speaks of infirmity.

 

One would not be chided for noting that Salah ranks among the top 2% of attacking midfielders and wingers across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for goals scored and touches in the attacking penalty area, the top 1% for assists and the top 20% for progressive passes per 90, as per FBref, and inferring that this is a player probably worth keeping hold of at the predawn of a new era.

 

But, hey, there are many variables in place, who knows? Still, with Michael Edwards and Richard Hughes now settled and operating within FSG’s footballing system, things will hopefully start to fall into place on Merseyside.

 

Retaining top talent at the club will be the first port of call (after the small matter of Klopp’s successor is sorted out, of course), and while Salah is the salient attacking superpower within Anfield’s walls, he’s not actually considered among the most lucrative stars on the books anymore.

 

Fast rising after a stuttering start, Ibrahima Konate is now in that mix.

 

Why Liverpool signed Ibrahima Konate

Liverpool forked out £36m after meeting Konate’s release clause with RB Leipzig back in 2021, having sold Dejan Lovren to Zenit Saint-Petersburg the year before and feeling the force of that sale after an incredible catalogue of injuries derailed the defending champions’ campaign.

A sinew-framed, hulking unit of a defender, the 6 foot 4 Frenchman has long been regarded as a high-class prospect, with talent scout Jacek Kulig even marvelling at the “athletic phenomenon” in 2022, early into his English adventure.

 

Joe Gomez and Joel Matip were already tried-and-tested partners next to Van Dijk but added depth was needed, and Konate was identified due to his blend of technical quality and core defensive strength.

 

However, while that innate ability has been clear from the off, the first few years of Konate’s Reds career were punctuated by injuries, with the France international starting 11 Premier League matches in 2021/22 and 17 last season.

 

With Matip suffering a season-ending anterior cruciate rupture in December – the veteran is also out of contract at the end of the campaign – and the dynamic Gomez featuring at full-back more regularly nowadays, Konate needed to step up, and that he has.

 

Ibrahima Konate’s market valuation in 2024

Konate, aged 24, now appears to be Van Dijk’s senior central defensive partner and while he’s only started 14 league games so far, he’s played with relative consistency after infrequent starting berths throughout the first half of the campaign.

 

As per Sofascore, the France international has completed 88% of his passes in the Premier League this season, averaging 4.4 ball recoveries per game and succeeding with 65% of his contested duels, with such showings leading one hawk-eyed analyst to laud him as an “absolute beast.”

 

To further emphasise this: as per FBref, Konate now ranks among the top 10% of centre-backs across Europe’s top five leagues over the past year for passes attempted, the top 16% for shot-creating actions, the top 14% for progressive passes, the top 20% for successful take-ons, the top 11% for tackles and the top 6% for aerial duels won per 90.

If fitness prevails over the coming months and years, there is little in the way of Konate establishing himself as one of Europe’s eminent defenders, if he is not already so.

 

And this is reflected through his market price; while there are several Redmen marked with a higher price tag at present, Konate is indeed rising fast toward the forefront of the squad, with his £69m value an impressive 92% increase in value in less than three years of service under Klopp’s management.

 

His newfound market price places him above Salah, who is perhaps somewhat harshly deemed worth £34m, and while it’s clear from last summer’s events that this is not the case, the table above remains an illustration of the gains Konate is making.

 

While many teams appear to prioritise attacking Liverpool’s right side of defence, avoiding Van Dijk and taking chances against the ostensibly lesser partner, Konate is starting to prove himself every bit as commanding in his duties.

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