Ibrahima Konate brushes off Liverpool demotion and makes shock 'best in the world' claim

Ibrahima Konate suffered through an indifferent end to the club season with Liverpool, last appearing in the Premier League starting XI during the disastrous Merseyside derby defeat to Everton in April. 

The 25-year-old was withdrawn by then-Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp during the encounter and had to contend with a place on the bench for the rest of the campaign. 

Nonetheless, the France defender has shrugged off concerns over his form as Les Bleus gear up for their second Euro 2024 group stage match against The Netherlands on Friday. 

Asked by Le Monde how he coped with his club ‘demotion’, the former RB Leipzig stopper was unequivocal. 

“‘Demotion’ is not the right word,” Konate shot back. “There was nothing at stake in Liverpool's last few games. If that had been the case, I would have been in a different mood and I would have discussed it with the coach. 

“But I've worked twice as hard on my own, alongside my club training, to be ready for this Euro. Mentally, there's nothing to say. Physically, I'm still lacking a bit of game time in my legs, but I'm not worried.”

Konate makes 'best in the world' claim

Konate has managed only 90 appearances overall since joining Liverpool from the Red Bulls for around £35m back in 2021, suffering a sequence of injuries which have restricted his impact. 

Asked how he dealt with those setbacks, Konate remarked that he kept going by reminding himself that were it not for injuries he believes he would be the best centre back in the world today. 

“How did you cope with these difficult times for a top-level athlete?,” Le Monde probed.  

Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate

“By telling myself that a career is short and that now is not the time to waver,” the World Cup finalist said. 

“Sometimes, when I'm lying in bed, I say to myself that if I hadn't been injured, I'd have been really strong, maybe the best central defender today. 

“But that's all part of being a footballer. It doesn't stop me from moving forward and, on the contrary, it gives me a mentality of steel. On the pitch and in my private life.”

Konate hails Van Dijk

Ahead of the clash against the Oranje, where he will face teammates Virgil van Dijk, the in-form Cody Gakpo and Ryan Gravenberch, Konate conceded he believed that Van Dijk was the best defender in the game and that he has learned lots from working alongside the Liverpool captain. 

“For me, he's the best,” Konate said. 

“I try to get the better of him. What I've learned from him: his calm, his serenity. And then there's his aura. Some strikers have already lost psychologically, even before their duel with him. That's my aim, to intimidate the opponent so that, in future matches, he'll go and fight the duel with another player.”

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