Liverpool are hoping to tie up a £35 million deal for RB Leipzig centre-half Ibrahima Konate before the start of next week’s Uefa Under-21 championships.
Konate is part of the France squad who play their opening game against Holland on Monday. A formal offer, triggering a £35m release clause, is anticipated over the coming days.
The decision effectively now rests with the player, who emerged as the first choice on a list of potential centre-back recruits drawn up during last season. Liverpool hope they can convince the youngster to move to Anfield amid interest from several top European clubs, but all the indications are the race is won.
They hope terms can be finalised with the club and the player before Konate focuses on international duty.
France Under-21s are due to begin their campaign against Netherlands on Monday, meaning negotiations would need to be wrapped up by the end of the week.
How Konate will fit into Klopp’s plans next season
If signed, Konate will start the next campaign vying for a place at the heart of Jurgen Klopp’s defence.
The 22-year-old will have the opportunity to compete to be the long-term partner for Virgil van Dijk, although one of the reasons Liverpool are eager to conclude the deal is to enable caution with the Dutchman’s recovery from cruciate knee surgery.
While Van Dijk has targeted a return in pre-season, the serious nature of his injury means Liverpool will not rush him back if they have other viable options. Both Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – also long-term absentees – may be further down the line in their recoveries by August. Konate, therefore, may find himself partnering Gomez and Matip in his first Liverpool appearances.
Manager Jurgen Klopp said last week he hoped Liverpool’s summer business would be complete before the start of pre-season, but has already made it clear he does not foresee major changes.
Klopp said he intended no more than ‘little adjustments’, and much of that will depend on the outgoings.
Players such as Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri have been available for the last few transfer windows but have not been the subject of attractive enough offers. Much may yet depend on how many of Klopp’s fringe players are offloaded before it is determined how much he has to spend during the rest of the transfer window.
Centre-back was always the immediate priority, and has been for over a year since Dejan Lovren was sold.
Klopp took the calculated risk of heading into last season with only three senior centre-backs and was prepared to use Fabinho as an emergency fourth choice.
That backfired when all three were injured. Liverpool signed two defenders in the January transfer window, but Ozan Kabak – on loan from Schalke – was always intended to be a short-term option. That was clear when Liverpool agreed a six month contract without any obligation to buy. Kabak has not been retained.
Although Liverpool have allowed Georginio Wijnaldum’s contract to expire, it is by no means certain they will sign a direct replacement. Liverpool bought midfielder Thiago Alcantara last summer, skipper Jordan Henderson will be back, and there are high hopes youngster Curtis Jones will further establish himself next season. Klopp maintains his faith in Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose Liverpool careers have been blighted by injury problems so far.