2D64T6B France U21's Ibrahima Konate

Ibrahima Konate “can’t focus” on LFC talk despite “phone ringing all over the place”

Ibrahima Konate says his phone was “ringing all over the place” after the news broke of his potential switch to Liverpool, but he insists he “can’t focus” on speculation.

Monday morning brought claims that the Reds were at an “advanced stage” in their bid to sign Konate ahead of next season, with The Athletic suggesting a deal was close.

The Merseyside press later downplayed these reports, with their line changing to the Frenchman simply being on a five-man shortlist that includes current loanee Ozan Kabak.

But ESPN‘s Julien Laurens has provided further detail in reporting that Michael Edwards has been “monitoring Konate for years,” and that talks intensified following the Champions League last-16 clashes with his club RB Leipzig.

Liverpool are described as being “in the lead,” despite both Chelsea and Man United also harbouring interest, and that they are “ready to pay his €41.5 million (£35.4m) release clause.”

Interestingly, Konate discussed the situation soon after, with L’Equipe carrying quotes from the France under-21s centre-back.

“I woke up, I saw my phone ringing all over the place,” the 21-year-old said.

“I just wanted to tell them ‘hey, I played yesterday, I’m tired, leave me alone!’.

“Frankly, I don’t even look at this. We can’t focus on that, there are the U21 Euros and then my return to the club. You have to focus on that and not on the external things.”

02 October 2019, Saxony, Leipzig: Soccer: Champions League, Group phase, Group G, 2nd matchday RB Leipzig - Olympique Lyon in the Red Bull Arena. Leipzig's player Ibrahima Konate on the ball. Photo: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa

It would be remiss of Konate to express his desire to join Liverpool midway through the campaign, with Leipzig still in the hunt for the Bundesliga title – though he is not currently a first-choice starter under Julian Nagelsmann.

But there appears to be substance to the claims that he is close to switching to Anfield, despite the insistence of Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche, speaking to Stats Perform News.

“I can’t say anything on that topic. I think that this is not an option for Ibu,” he said.

“He has a long contract with us and he knows what we mean to him and what he means to us.

“He was unlucky last year as he had a longer injury but this year he is in a good way and he is an extremely important player that has a lot of potential.

“We want to help him to further develop, and we play internationally, have a very good team, so I don’t see a reason for him to leave us.”

Of course, Leipzig saying they “don’t see a reason for him to leave” is, effectively, their only bargaining chip in this deal, as the presence of a release clause means they would not come into negotiations if Liverpool agreed to pay the £35.4 million.