Premier League • England

Klopp couldn’t make Konate promise, but defender reveals key to manager’s lure

Ibrahima Konate clapping after a Liverpool win

Ibrahima Konate has revealed how he began planning to win his place before joining Liverpool thanks to a conversation with Jurgen Klopp.

Konate was the only senior signing of the summer for Liverpool in 2021. He arrived to ease their concerns in defence after a number of injuries the previous season. So far, he hasn’t played as much as Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, but has featured more than Joe Gomez.

The Frenchman has not started a Premier League match since Liverpool’s first fixture in January. However, he came on in the Carabao Cup final recently. With Matip ruled out for their next match against West Ham, he could be set to take his place.

The summer signing has now opened up on his decision to join Liverpool in the summer, and how he always knew he wouldn’t be guaranteed regular gametime.

Konate has told Sky Sports how conversations with manager Klopp helped persuade him.

“Yes, I spoke with him two or three times,” Konate said. “If Jurgen Klopp calls you, you think a lot about this! He does not call you for nothing!

“But we speak a lot, about me, my private life, about him also, the club, the mentality of the players, everything.

“It is not just me and him, you know, it is about everything I take this decision – the mentality of the club, the players with who I will work every day, about the city, about everything and with this, I made my decision.

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“I asked him if I will play or not and he said, ‘yes, you will play.’ He did not tell me, ‘yes you will play a lot like you are the first defender’, or ‘you will not play a lot like you are the last defender’.

“But it was always like that with me. When I was with Sochaux, when I go to Germany, the coach never told me, ‘Yes you will play a lot.’

“No, it is always with me, I train a lot and after step by step, I win my place and why not with Liverpool I cannot do this? And this is good, as after this, I will work a lot.”

Liverpool didn’t practise penalties

Konate was one of Liverpool’s 11 goalscorers in the final of the Carabao Cup last weekend, which they won. Klopp has compared it to the Champions League final and Konate – although he has not experienced that himself – agrees.

Intriguingly, the 22-year-old revealed Liverpool did not practise penalties before the match.

Ibrahima Konate taking a penalty for Liverpool

“If I have to speak about the atmosphere, the fans of Liverpool or Chelsea were amazing,” he said. “It was an incredible game. The intensity and everything was crazy; it was like the final of the Champions League.

“To watch this game was crazy and to play was a dream and after we win on penalties, the first one I’ve ever taken in my professional career.

“We did not practise – some players maybe, but they practise for the game, not for the [shootout]. But no, we did not practise it, but after everybody scored, then this was amazing for us.”

Konate reflects on title race

Liverpool are aiming to add more silverware this year. Some feel they have a realistic chance of catching Manchester City for the Premier League title.

Klopp has not been in the mood to discuss it. But Konate has reminded his teammates of the mentality they must have. Asked if every game is a must-win until the end of the season, the ex-RB Leipzig man made it clear.

“Yes, yes, yes – we have to think like that. If we think ‘yes, we will see’… no, this is not the best mentality,” he said. “I think we have to think about yes, we have to win, win, win to have the chance to win something again.

“And if we think like that, we will be more focused. It is crazy to think like that, you know. But we have to think like a crazy guy and a crazy team. And we have an unbelievable team and I think if we are together, we will make some crazy things this season and we have to think like that.

“Everyone knows West Ham is a very good team, strong team. But yes, we have to think about this game and yes we are focussed now for this game and we will see on Saturday what happens.”

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