Ibrahima Konate wants to emulate the success of Virgil van Dijk, who he ranks as the best defender in the world.
Konate signed from RB Leipzig for a reported £36million (€42.5m) during the last transfer window and idolises Van Dijk, who played a key role as Liverpool captured their first top-flight title in 30 years during the 2019-20 season.
In that term, only Burnley’s James Tarkowski (191) won more aerial duels than Van Dijk (191) and Jurgen Klopp’s side struggled without the injured centre-back the next campaign as they failed to muster a worthy title defence.
The former Leipzig man boasts a similarly impressive aerial record. Out of the 742 defenders to play at least 20 games in Europe’s top-five leagues since the start of the 2019-20 season, only Bruno Alves (81 per cent) posted a better aerial duel success rate than Konate (78).
However, after making his full debut against Crystal Palace last Saturday, Konate appreciates he has a long way to go to reach the levels of his defensive team-mate.
“I cannot compare with Virgil [van Dijk] because he showed to the world that he’s the best defender in the world,” Konate responded to Sky Sports when asked about the comparisons.
“Me? No. But I hope, with time, I will show this.”
Frequently without Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip the previous season, Liverpool struggled and the arrival of Konate has now bolstered an already impressive backline.
And Klopp pinpointed his defence as a driving factor for if his side are to be successful once again.
“Ali[sson] in moments, could just make brilliant saves, it’s not as though nobody had a shot on target against us,” Klopp said on Friday.
“But as a unit, we defended so far pretty well. We said it before the season, nobody wanted to hear it, but we had three new players without buying them in Joel [Matip], Joe [Gomez] and Virgil [van Dijk]. We brought in Ibrahima [Konate].
“This year, we had time in pre-season to work on it, and you see that now. That doesn’t mean in matchday 38 we’ll still have only one goal conceded, but it means we are more stable at the moment.
“That’s what we need to be successful. To be successful, you have to be consistent; if you are consistent, you have to defend well, because you cannot fly every day and score a lot of goals. You have to defend, you have to grind out results from time to time.”