InterviewIbrahima Konate: Anfield chanting my name is a dream come true
The news came as a pleasant surprise to Ibrahima Konate.
Unbeknown to the centre-back, Liverpool fans have recently started hailing him with chants of ‘Ibooouuu!’ during games – with the latest example coming when he made an excellent tackle in the latter stages of Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Villarreal at Anfield.
“No! Really? You will have to show me!” Konate replied to Liverpoolfc.com, when asked if he was aware of this support.
“To hear that and to learn that from you, I am a bit embarrassed to be honest! I hadn’t noticed it but thinking about it, it is a dream come true. To have Anfield chanting your name, it’s really a dream come true.
“You will have to show me the footage and I will listen out for it! I don’t want to shed tears on the pitch about it, but it is a big thing.”
We caught up with Konate at the AXA Training Centre on Friday. Read on for his thoughts on Jürgen Klopp’s new contract, his unbeaten record as a Red, the secret behind his recent goalscoring form and more…
Ibou, there was some big news on Thursday when it was announced that the manager and his assistants have signed new deals with the club. What has been the reaction to that among the players?
I think we are all very happy, of course, as players and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to keep this team together for a very long time.
At the beginning of the season there were also many players who took that step of extending their contracts as well so I think overall, along with the fans, it must be the coach, Jürgen Klopp, himself and his family who are most pleased with extending the contract.
We are talking only a couple of days after the win over Villarreal and there’s another big game at Newcastle United on Saturday. Have you managed to recover and do you and the squad feel ready to go again?
It’s true, the month of April has been quite tough in terms of the fixture congestion. We’ve had lots of matches coming one after the other in rapid succession, so we are very fortunate that we have such a good medical staff supporting us. I think the training techniques and the rest patterns that we follow have helped us to keep on top of things, but of course we have to focus match by match and on staying fit and being able to give our best performance on each occasion.
The schedule is so intense at the moment but the results have been great so the confidence in the group must be so high…
Yes, you are right, we are enjoying a phase of very high confidence within the team but we are coming up against two very renowned and very good teams [next], so it is important that we put in a good team performance ourselves and give a good account of ourselves. At this stage of the season fatigue starts to play a role and also, let’s not forget, in both of these upcoming matches both teams have got a lot to play for so we hope we can give a lot on the pitch and get the results we are looking for.
Inside Anfield: Liverpool 2-0 Villarreal
Are periods like this one of the main reasons you decided to join Liverpool? There’s a huge game every few days, you’ve already won one trophy this season and you’re challenging for three more…
Of course. It’s not only the intensity of the play towards the end of the season, it’s the whole thing about Liverpool that captured my attention when the opportunity came to move here: the fans, the great coach, the team itself. Obviously as a player you come to a club to win things and that was the standout feature of a move to Liverpool, of course. But over the course of your career you are going to have big moments, some of them very positive and some perhaps negative, but big ones and I would hope that I will be able to stay here for a long time and hopefully with lots of continuing success.
The match against Villarreal was your 23rd appearance for the club – do you know how many of those games you have lost?
[Laughs] Yes, I know – zero!
It’s an incredible personal record – it’d be nice to keep it going for the rest of the season…
Well sure, it’s a personal goal of mine not to lose any game. It’s a team objective, of course, to go out there and not lose but I also apply that to myself, whether I am in the starting XI or not. The team never wants to lose and neither do I. There are many matches left ahead of us, big ones coming up, all of which pose their own kind of danger, be that in the FA Cup, the league or the Champions League, so the key thing is to give everything we can and hopefully win them all – and win all the competitions.
You’ve been in fantastic goalscoring form recently too! All three of your goals were similar – is that something you have worked on in training?
Yeah, you’re right, I’ve been doing some work on corners during training, usually in the final training session on the day before a match. Let’s be honest about it, it’s not my key job! But I have been quite successful at getting on the end of some of these crosses coming in from the corners – and why not!
Finally, Newcastle are on a great run of form at home, winning their last six at St. James’ Park in the Premier League, so how tough do you expect this match to be?
It’s not just Newcastle, to be honest, it’s all the other matches that remain from now to the end of May. They are all against very good teams. I think we need to focus on our team spirit, all these opponents are going to come against us with no fear and to play a footballing game so it is important that we stick to our game plan and we take on board and listen to the advice of Jürgen Klopp, which is going to stand us in good stead.