France team – Ibrahima Konaté: “Why would I shoot my head?”

You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Like Aurélien Tchouaméni a few months ago at Clairefontaine, Ibrahima Konaté did not let his own slip away on Tuesday in Split. The day after the draw conceded in Croatia (1-1), a match in which he did not take part, the Liverpool defender went in front of the press to get to know his new environment.

Called on Saturday instead of Raphaël Varane, Ibrahima Konaté won over his audience, and that’s nothing to say. The Liverpool centre-back didn’t seem intimidated for a second. Neither on arrival nor before. Especially not before, for that matter. “It didn’t prevent me from sleeping. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. Especially when it’s in good conditions”, he joked, happy to be there. However, he did not expect it. Truly not.

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After losing the Champions League final at the Stade de France, Konaté decided to set sail, literally and figuratively. And cut. And then… “I was on a boat with my friends in Greece, we were having fun. There, I’m looking for my phone and I see two missed calls. I called back because I didn’t know the number…” Good idea. Konaté quickly understood. He dreamed of it. But not right now. “The France team, I said it was a short-term goal, I didn’t think it would be so fast!”he laughs.

Everything happened very quickly for him. Arrived in Liverpool last summer and now firmly established in central defense, the 23-year-old Parisian experienced a real emotional whirlwind in 2022. “It’s not easy… After the season, I told the coach (Editor’s note: Jürgen Klopp) that was emotionally impressive as a youngster. There, I’m on vacation, I decide to cut everything and they call me for the France A team! It’s a bit too much for my head (laughs)“.

Uncle Virgil’s advice

Author of a cannonball end to the season with Liverpool, Ibrahima Konaté has set foot on the mushroom and, if he finds himself there, it is not to make up the numbers. Being called up to the Blues is good. Settling there is better. And to do this, a little playing time would not be superfluous, even at this time of the season. “I had the chance to play in the C1 final, but it’s a bit difficult for me. Afterwards, I still have a bit of rhythm. Am I ready? I have no choice, I am a soldier.”

A soldier who listens to the hierarchy. And is inspired by it. Big fan of Sergio Ramos and… Virgil van Dijk, the Liverpool defender is a sponge. He learns quickly and retains lessons: “I’ve learned so many things since I’ve been at Liverpool… I like to look at the stats for example. And I often noticed that Van Dijk ran less than me during matches. what is he doing?’ In fact, it’s the positioning and the intelligence of the game, I have to draw inspiration from it to keep the energy.”

“When we see Ben Yedder’s matches, we can have a thought for Giroud”

Uncle Virgil’s advice, volume 2? The Dutchman and his discipline pushed him to watch matches on TV, which Konaté almost never did in Leipzig. Much to the chagrin of Nordi Mukiele. “When I spoke with Van Dijk, he said to me: ‘Such a striker plays like this or like that’. I don’t know all that!” So Ibrahima has disciplined himself and turns on his TV more often during the season.

Thiago Alcantara, another senior, advised him on another sector of the game: offensive set pieces. “He said to me: ‘When you go up, you have to believe in it’. I had the chance to put one on and it followed. I didn’t believe in myself”. Konaté scored three times in the spring.

Again, he did well to listen. With a smile, always. Of circumstance ? “I’m always like that, I try to bring joy to life, there’s no reason to be sad. I am in good health, I have every reason to be happy. Why would I pull my head?

Virgil van Dijk congratulates Ibrahima Konaté, scorer against Benfica

Credit: Getty Images

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