LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 6, 2022: Liverpool's Ibrahima Konaté (L) and Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Incredible player” – Van Dijk names defender as Liverpool teammate who surprised him

Virgil van Dijk has set new benchmarks at centre-back and knows what it takes to be successful, something he has no doubt Ibrahima Konate will be for Liverpool in the present and future.

Konate’s 2022/23 season to date has been stop-start thanks to injury, featuring just four times for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

But his quality speaks for itself and it sees him as part of France’s World Cup squad as they look to defend their crown, and reports suggest he could start in their opener against Australia.

The 23-year-old enjoyed a standout debut season with Liverpool, featuring 29 times and playing alongside Van Dijk in 19 of those matches.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, October 31, 2022: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (L) and Ibrahima Konaté (R) during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 6 game between Liverpool FC and SSC Napoli. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

From seeing him on and off the pitch, Van Dijk named Konate as the Liverpool player who has taken him most by surprise during his time at Anfield, with the electric Luis Diaz also getting a mention.

“It’s a difficult one, but I think Konate over the last year, personality-wise he’s very outspoken, bubbly, and chatty, but on the pitch, he’s quality of course,” Van Dijk told Pitch Side.

“An incredible player for now, but also for the future. He’s the first one that comes to mind.

“But also Luis Diaz, coming in in the winter, for me personally knowing how difficult it can be, joining a new team and settling as quickly as he did, so those two guys come to mind immediately.”

Two genius transfers from the club within the space of seven months.

As for the best player he’s ever played with, Van Dijk’s answer will not come as a complete surprise to Liverpool supporters having witnessed his game intelligence for more than seven years.

“At Liverpool, probably Bobby Firmino. Knowing how difficult it is playing against him as a defender because he drops deep,” Van Dijk explained.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 27, 2022: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino (R) celebrates with team-mate Luis Díaz after scoring the fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I’ll say him, but you know, Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Thiago now, it’s been a joy to play with these guys.

“With the national team, we’ve got Frenkie de Jong, who is really good.

“When he made his debut, we started to really change the way we play, and he’s so influential for us. He’s incredible, and hopefully, he will do very well for us at the World Cup.”

Speaking of De Jong, the Dutchman recently spoke of how “one guy told me I had to join Liverpool” when the Netherlands squad met with migrant workers who helped build the infrastructure in Qatar. Unlikely, but you’ve got to appreciate the effort.