Milner stoked by new man’s skills amid Liverpool famine turning to feast

Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrew Robertson and JamesMilner celebrating a Liverpool goal, May 2021

James Milner has been impressed by new Liverpool team-mate Ibrahima Konate and is delighted that last season’s paucity of defenders has now turned into a glut.

Konate, 22, has joined the Anfield giants, with Liverpool paying RB Leipzig £36m for his services. And it seems as though the France Under-21 ace is relishing the thought of getting stuck into the English game.

“I have watched some Premier League games and everybody knows there is so much intensity, strong players,” he told reporters on Friday. “This is difficult but I [will] love the challenge.”

The Reds have arrived in Salzburg for a pre-season trip that includes a number of games. They will face FC Wacker Innsbruck and VfB Stuttgart in two mini-games on Tuesday.

That will be the first time that the rest of the squad has seen the centre-back operate at close quarters. Milner has enjoyed a brief glimpse of the rangy stopper and likes what he has seen.

“[He’s] Very good. He certainly looks like a central defender,” he told the club’s official website. “He’s obviously very strong, he’s good on the ball, a very good defender positionally.

“I’ve not seen much of him in training but a couple of things he has done have stood out.”

Matches against Mainz 05 and Hertha Berlin follow this week’s openers. Jurgen Klopp is looking for a bounce back season after last season’s disappointing defence of their Premier League title.

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The Merseysiders did manage to scrape into the top four with an excellent late-season rally, but it was a struggle.

Konate among talented defensive throng

Liverpool’s defensive woes in 2020-2021 were well documented and were behind their fall from grace. Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez missed much of the season and Klopp’s side could not cope.

Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies were signed in January but did little to arrest the decline. The trio of injury victims are now looking to work their way back into the first-team picture.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is also on the comeback trail after injury forced him out of Euro 2020. And Milner feels it is a positive state of affairs that contracts sharpy with what happened last term.

“It’s a strange situation: you obviously go from last season not having too many centre-halves and now we’ve got top-class centre-halves all over the place. It’s fantastic,” he added.

“Nat [Phillips] is obviously here and Davo [Ben Davies], Rhysy [Williams] obviously and all the guys in there.

“It’s a great standard of centre-half that we’ve got with everyone pushing each other and that’s exactly what you need.”

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