Liverpool‘s proposed move for RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate could be thwarted by a late approach from Chelsea, according to reports. The 21-year-old has been heavily linked with both clubs in recent weeks, but the Reds appear to have taken the first steps in acting on their interest.
A report from The Athletic on Monday claimed that negotiations were at an advanced stage, suggesting that Liverpool could meet Konate’s £34m release clause ahead of the summer transfer window.
The youngster has impressed alongside Bayern Munich-bound Dayot Upamecano when called upon for Leipzig this season, but has missed a large portion of the campaign through injury.
He is said to be growing frustrated with his lack of playing time under Julian Nagelsmann, who has left him out of the side when fully fit on seven occasions since the beginning of the campaign.
Like Liverpool, Chelsea are also in the market for reinforcements at the back amid uncertainty surrounding the immediate futures of a number of current Blues defenders.
Veteran centre-back Thiago Silva is out of contract at the end of the season and is yet to agree fresh terms, while Fikayo Tomori could join AC Milan on a permanent basis with the Serie A side keen on taking up their option to buy upon the expiry of his half-season loan deal.
Meanwhile, the trio of Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen are only contracted until the end of next season, meaning Chelsea could look to sell at least one of them this summer in order to avoid losing them for nothing in a year’s time.
The Blues have been linked with a variety of potential targets in recent months, but could be set to launch an attempt to secure the signing of Konate ahead of Liverpool, according to French newspaper L’Equipe.
The report claims that Chelsea are very much in the frame for the defender’s signature along with a selection of other top European sides, suggesting that the Reds have a long way to go before getting their man over the line.
Sources close to the player have not denied making contact with Jurgen Klopp’s side, who remain in pole position to complete the transfer, but a late bid from Chelsea or another interested club should not be ruled out.
Arsenal, Real Madrid and Barcelona have previously been tipped to land Konate, but the report only names Chelsea as a potential stumbling block with regards to Liverpool’s pursuit.
Leipzig director Markus Krosche suggested on Monday that his side would do everything in their power to keep hold of Konate, who remains under contract until the summer of 2023, into next season and beyond.
“I think that this is not an option for Ibu,” Krosche told Sky Sports. “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 long-term injury but this year he is developing well and he is an extremely important player that has a lot of potential.
“We want to help him to develop further, and we play in Europe and have a very good team, so I don’t see a reason for him to leave us.”
Konate, who is currently on youth international duty with France’s under-21 side, has revealed that he has been inundated with phone calls since reports of Liverpool’s interest surfaced.
However, he stressed that the speculation has not turned his head, claiming that he remains fully focused on ensuring a strong end to the campaign with Leipzig.
“I woke up, I saw my phone ringing all over the place,” Konate told L’Equipe. “I just wanted to tell them, ‘Hey, I played yesterday, I’m tired, leave me alone’.
“Frankly, I don’t even watch this. We can’t focus on that, there are the [under-21] Euros and then my return to the club. You have to focus on that and not on the external things.”