Liverpool are expected to approach RB Leipzig for a centre-back in the summer, but rather than rumour mill favourite Dayot Upamecano, it could be for Ibrahima Konate.
Even without the current situation, the Reds were believed to be planning to bring in a new centre-back at the end of the season, to supplement the trio of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
While the long-term absence of both Van Dijk and Gomez has increased pressure on the club to reinforce this month, that is seemingly still the plan.
A short-term solution could be found before the winter window closes on February 2, but the summer is more likely to be the time that Jurgen Klopp adds to Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip, allowing Fabinho to return to midfield.
Many centre-backs have already been linked with a move to Anfield, and perhaps none more frequently than Upamecano, who will be available due to a £37.3 million release clause in his contract.
However, journalist Rory Smith, speaking on the Guardian‘s Football Weekly podcast, has hinted that Liverpool have instead decided on the Leipzig defender’s partner at the back, Konate.
“I don’t think it’s to do with money not being available to Klopp,” he said.
“I think the club’s principle and policy is if we can’t get the exact player we want then we’re not going to sign anybody. That has worked for them brilliantly.
“I think they intend to sign a central defender in the summer. I think that central defender is probably someone they’ll play against in the Champions League last 16 – and I don’t think it’s Dayot Upamecano.
“They’ve obviously decided that is what they’re going to do.”
Konate is a 21-year-old France youth international who joined Leipzig in 2017 and has gone on to make 86 appearances for the club, typically as the right-sided centre-back.
Liverpool have already been credited with an interest in the youngster, with BILD claiming the Reds have expressed a desire to sign both him and Upamecano, who he has played alongside 47 times so far.
The decision to wait until the summer to bring in a high-potential, proven defender like Konate may prove divisive, but it certainly fits the long-term vision of the club – particularly given his age.
Seeing out the rest of the season with Fabinho and Matip as first choice, with Jordan Henderson, Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips and Billy Koumetio in reserve and faint hopes of Van Dijk or Gomez returning, may be a gamble.
But that is in keeping with Liverpool’s approach, as making any kneejerk signings to solve a relatively short-term problem could upset the balance of the squad entirely, as has been the case in the past.