Jurgen Klopp is about to get Liverpool star back who will have perfect ripple effect on team


Now inside his third season as a Liverpool player. Ibrahima Konate's development at Anfield has gone more or less according to the plan so far.

Konate was just days removed from his 22nd birthday when it was confirmed he would be joining the Reds in late May of 2021 and the former RB Leipzig man arrived as somewhat of a textbook Liverpool transfer.

He was young yet relatively experienced, had been purchased from a club with whom the Reds enjoy a good relationship and was around the ballpark figure favoured at Anfield of between £35-40m. His level at the time was sufficient for him to be able to challenge immediately for a place in the team but it was his long-term potential that truly left the Reds' recruitment team with no doubt about signing him.

Having initially been held in reserve for Champions League games when he covered for Joel Matip, France international eventually came to challenge his more experienced team-mate for Premier League action and by the end of his maiden term, Konate was starting alongside Virgil van Dijk as the Reds were beaten by Real Madrid in the European Cup final.

The start of last season marked Konate out as the undisputed first choice alongside Van Dijk and that has been a settled partnership whenever the pair have been fit since. The tactical tweak that saw Trent Alexander-Arnold move into something of a hybrid midfield role has only strengthened Konate's hand since.

The power and pace of the Paris-born centre-half marked him out as the almost ideal profile to complement Alexander-Arnold's new role in the Liverpool system, allowing the England international to thrive further forward. The rejig was a big part of the reason Jurgen Klopp's team went on an unbeaten run of 11 games at the back end of the campaign, with Konate playing in nine of those that included an outstanding performance - particularly in the second half - in the 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Easter Sunday.

"Yes, maybe [Alexander-Arnold's position] has made me a better player because I have to do more," Konate said over the summer. "Because I have more space to defend. But I have a nice team to help me do this, and this season let's see what will happen."

It was Konate's commanding display that allowed Alexander-Arnold to flourish more centrally as the Reds fought back from two goals down to almost snatch a late - and deserved - winner from the central defender himself, who was denied by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

If that afternoon was something of a breakout moment for Alexander-Arnold, it was also one for Konate, even if it was in more understated terms. "One of few to avoid real criticism in the first half and grew in stature as game progressed up against (Gabriel) Jesus," wrote the ECHO's verdict on Konate as he scored a 9 in the player ratings. "Roused the crowd with a very strong challenge on Xhaka, and almost got the winner in the last second. Good stuff." No player scored higher that day.

It was noticeable against Aston Villa in the most recent Premier League game how Alexander-Arnold was more cerebral in where and when he picked his moments to drift into the areas that a more traditional central midfielder might take up.

With Konate currently sidelined with an injury that was picked up when Liverpool were forced to play for half an hour with a man less against Bournemouth last month, Alexander-Arnold was much less liberal with his venturing forward at times, but chose his opportunities perfectly to turn in a Man of the Match performance in that 3-0 win at Anfield.

With Klopp hopeful of Konate's return on the other side of the international break it will be fascinating to see how much stronger an in-form Reds look with their first choice once more on the right side of the centre-half positions and Alexander-Arnold displaying the sort of confidence he did against Villa.

"This system where Trent is getting into midfield and getting into more attacking positions is the key to the success we've been having recently," Konate told Sky Sports back in May. "It's important that we can involve Trent further up the field because of the quality he has in his game. We all know what a great passer of the ball he is, I'd say he's one of the best passers in the world. I think it's made us more clinical and decisive in front of goal."

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