Ibrahima Konaté has been privileged to regularly play alongside a pair of terrific center-back partners for most of his young career. For four years at RB Leipzig, Konaté got the chance to play with the very highly regarded Dayot Upamecano, and he now gets to lineup next to the veteran Virgil van Dijk with Liverpool.
While Konaté and Upamecano no longer play for the same club, they do still get to play together with the French National Team when they are both called up like they were for the current international break. So, Liverpool’s starlet gets to regularly compare playing with one of the game’s brightest young defenders and one of it’s most talented veterans, and that naturally leads to outside curiosity about how they measure up to each other.
No surprise, then, that Ibou was asked that very question in a recent interview with Eurosport France. While his answer was to praise both, he also used the question to convey the clear respect he has for van Dijk.
“What kind of question is that?” Konaté said with a laugh. “You can’t compare the two.”
“With Upamecano, we are in the same category even if he is a very high competitor. But Van Dijk, I put him on a different planet. We’re still a long way from achieving what he did. Although we will get there one day, I have no doubt.”
One of the major advantages of playing alongside an experienced player like van Dijk is the chance to learn from him, and Konaté wasn’t shy about rattling off the things he has learned.
“Leadership, he has such an ease in defending on certain players. He has his own technique, it’s incredible. His determination, his drive... He has an aura on the pitch, you always feel it.”
However, as much as Ibou admires van Dijk, the defender also aspires to establish himself as a star in his own right and help Liverpool continue to win silverware.
“It’s an exceptional chance to play with him. But I also have to look at my career and not look at him as a fan all the time.
“When you play for Liverpool, the question honestly is, ‘Where can I go next?’
“And to last at this club, you have to perform. My goal is to be part of the team in the short and long term, and of course to win all the titles.”