- RB Leipzig’s France U21 centre-back has £35.5m release clause
- Gini Wijnaldum on verge of signing for Barcelona
Ibrahima Konaté, pictured right, is considered by Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool to be a better signing at £35.5m than the £18m it would cost to make Ozan Kabak’s loan from Schalke permanent. Photograph: Getty Images
The Guardian-Mark Dobson
Liverpool look set to complete a £35m move for the RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konaté with Jürgen Klopp deciding against a permanent transfer for Ozan Kabak.
The France Under-21 international, who turned 22 on Tuesday, has been a long-term target of Liverpool and, having qualified for next season’s Champions League, Klopp has been given the green light for the deal. The club are on the verge of triggering the release clause of €41m (£35.5m), which must be paid in one lump sum.
With Liverpool now set on signing Konaté on a five-year contract, Kabak will return to Schalke following the expiry of his loan deal. The 21-year-old was signed in January, along with Preston’s Ben Davies – who failed to make an appearance for Liverpool in the final four months of the season – as cover for the injured centre-backs Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joël Matip. All three are expected to be fit for pre-season and, following the impressive form of Nat Phillips, Liverpool are looking to bolster their defensive ranks at the end of a campaign that highlighted the lack of squad depth.
The news will come as a blow for Schalke who were relegated from the Bundesliga this season. They are keen to offload Kabak and had offered Liverpool an option to buy the defender for £18m. Leipzig – on the lookout for a replacement for Konaté – and Leicester have already been linked with a move for the Turkey international.
The 20-year-old Rhys Williams, who made 19 appearances for Liverpool and finished the season as Phillips’ regular partner, is likely to be sent out on loan to a Football League club following a successful spell at non-league Kidderminster earlier in his career.
Meanwhile, one player leaving Anfield permanently – Gini Wijnaldum – looks set to sign for Barcelona after his agent held talks at the Camp Nou. The midfielder, who will depart Liverpool on a free transfer, has consistently been linked with Barça and is on the verge of signing a three-year contract.
He will link up with Sergio Agüero who will play his final game for Manchester City on Saturday in the Champions League final.