Ibrahima Konate figures to be a key player for Liverpool moving forward, but he is yet to feature at senior level for France, which has prompted an approach from elsewhere.
Since his £36 million switch from RB Leipzig in May, Konate has enjoyed a blossoming reputation under Jurgen Klopp, featuring regularly among the centre-back ranks.
Though Joel Matip is currently cemented as Virgil van Dijk‘s first-choice partner, the 22-year-old has already made 15 appearances including starts against Man United, Tottenham, Inter Milan and Chelsea.
Only 12 Liverpool players have clocked more minutes than his 1,258, and he has produced an excellent run of form while adjusting to the demands of a new system.
He arrived as a France under-21 international, featuring in a quarter-final loss to the Netherlands at the U21 Euros shortly after agreeing to join Liverpool, but has not played another international game since then as he is now over-age.
Konate continues to be overlooked by France manager Didier Deschamps, who has preferred the likes of Dayot Upamecano and Jules Kounde among an admittedly strong bank of centre-backs at senior level.
Mali has gotten Abdoulaye Doucoure to switch nationality. Such a massive capture.
They're now working on striker Moussa Dembele and Liverpool's Ibrahima Konate.
Will be an interesting blend if they succeed.
— Saddick Adams (@SaddickAdams) February 23, 2022
And according to African journalist Saddick Adams, Mali have now revived their efforts to convince Konate to switch nationalities.
The youngster was born in France but has Malian heritage, and having yet to pick up a senior cap for France would be eligible to swap national teams as Mali look to strengthen their pool of talent.
It is not the first time Mali have attempted to persuade Konate to represent them, with claims of a similar bid back in 2019.
Adams reports that Everton midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure, also born in France, has already agreed to represent his parents’ nation, while Mali are also working on Lyon striker Moussa Dembele.
Representing Mali would almost certainly grant Konate an immediate route into senior international football, but would of course require him to turn down the opportunity to represent two-time World Cup winners France.
Much will depend on his belief in his ability, interactions with Deschamps and his patience – as well as Konate’s sense of identity, with the decision to switch nationalities a complex one for players with mixed heritage.
Mali’s efforts to sign up players born outside of the country follows a trend of African nations as they push to bolster their squads with those on the fringes of other national teams.
At this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, for example, Nigeria included the trio of Ola Aina, Joe Aribo and Alex Iwobi, who had previously represented England at youth level, while Ademola Lookman was recently granted his switch by FIFA.
But the next iteration of the Africa Cup of Nations, set for 2023, will be held over June and July.