Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has warned centre-backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip that new signing Ibrahima Konate can start matches “right away”. The Reds confirmed on Friday afternoon that they had reached a £36million agreement to bring the RB Leipzig defender to Anfield.
A club statement announced that Konate, 22, will become a Liverpool player from July 1 subject to international clearance and the defender being granted a work permit.
Konate is currently with France’s under-21s for the upcoming UEFA U21 European Championships but will then become Liverpool’s first signing of the summer.
And Klopp insists he is excited to work with a centre-half he has long liked, but warned current centre-backs Gomez and Matip they will face extra competition for their starting spot alongside Virgil van Dijk.
All three are returning from season-ending injuries with Liverpool having had to use Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho in central defence in the 2020-21 season.
The on-loan Ozan Kabak also deputised for Liverpool but will return to Schalke with Konate the only centre-back whom the club plan to sign this summer.
And Klopp thanked Kabak for his contributions as he declared: “I’m really pleased we’ve been able to add a player of Ibrahima’s quality to our squad and he is someone I’ve admired for a long time, ever since I first became aware of his potential when he was at Sochaux.
“After the problems we had with injuries in the centre-half position last season, there’s no doubt it was clear it was an area of the team we needed to strengthen – but I first have to say that the job Nat, Rhys and Ozan did was incredible. Unbelievable really.
“In Ibrahima we are signing a player who will add to the quality we already have here. His physical attributes are very impressive; he is quick, he is very strong and he is dominant in the air.
“He comes to us after playing more than 90 times for Leipzig in the Bundesliga and European football.
“I’m sure that number would have been more but for some injury, but even so that means he already has experience of what it takes to compete in two outstandingly difficult competitions.
“He also played for a team in the Champions League in high-pressure matches, who have a similar football vision to ourselves.
“It’s a really exciting moment for me and my family and I am really looking forward to meeting my new teammates, the staff and getting started on this new chapter.
“Right now, my focus is on the U21 European Championships with France, but after this competition I know I will be joining one of the best teams in the world and that gives me a great feeling.
“I have worked very hard for many years to get to this point, but I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at RB Leipzig and all the people I worked with there – the coaches, my team-mates, the staff and especially the fans.
“Your support helped me grow up during my time there and become not only a better player, but a better man and I will always be grateful for it.”
It has not yet been confirmed which shirt number Konate will take on Merseyside.