Karim Konaté: RB Salzburg’s next gem who has already made international history – scout report
Karim Konaté is one of the rising stars in the Red Bull network. He moved to RB Salzburg in July 2022 and is currently out on loan to second-league club FC Liefering which is part of the RB cosmos. Therefore, he also plays in the UEFA Youth League for RB Salzburg’s U19.
Konaté is a product of ASEC Mimosas academy. This famous youth system produced many fantastic players in recent years such as Bonaventure Kalou, Didier Zokora, Emmanuel Eboué, Bakari Koné, Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Romaric, Boubacar Barry, Didier Ya Konan, Kolo Touré, Yaya Touré and Odilon Kossounou. Karim has been a real sensation in the Ivorian Ligue 1 since he made his debut in 2020 at the age of only 16.
He debuted with the Ivory Coast national team on 3 March 2021 in a 0–0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification tie with Mozambique. In January 2022, he was the youngest player at the Africa Cup of Nations.
This tactical analysis provides an in-depth scout report of Salzburg’s Karim Konaté and examines the 18-year-old’s playing style and characteristics. In addition to understanding how and where Konaté plays, this analysis will also identify the style of tactics where he is most likely to thrive. Is he the next player to make his way into elite football under Matthias Jaissle?
Karim Konaté is the latest prospect who came from Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas and their academy which is known as Académie MimoSifcom. The 18-year-old is a pure striker with excellent instincts inside the penalty area who is continuing to develop his ability to play on the wings and contribute to his team’s attacking build-up.
Konaté is very elusive and slippery, making him hard to track whether dribbling or off the ball due to his top-level acceleration and speed. In addition to his skill as a goal scorer who can regularly get behind the defence and attack the ball in the air, Konaté serves as an excellent outlet who can hold the ball up on the wings.
At this point, the most important area for Konaté to improve is his ball efficiency. His urgent style of play leads to moments when he attempts to do too much with his passing when the simple option is best. However, if Konaté can find a way to be more involved throughout the ninety minutes and improve his strength as well as his effectiveness with his back-to-goal, the sky is the limit for the young Ivorian.
Konaté is known for his elite-level acceleration and speed. He is an explosive player who flies by defenders and gets up to top speed rapidly. Additionally, he provides excellent agility. Therefore, it is easy for him to glide through traffic, and he thrives when operating in tight spaces.
Konaté is a slick dribbler who is not afraid to take on defenders. The young striker is rarely dispossessed when engaged by only one defender due to his close control of the ball.
His good vertical allows him to leap over taller players when attacking aerial duels. He scored several goals by head already. But from time to time, he is lacking in strength which leaves him overwhelmed when attempting to hold the ball up or in aerial duels against physical central defenders.
Adding to that, he is a good finisher at this point with room to improve. At the moment, he does well to get his shots on target in traffic and is lethal from inside ten yards when he pounces on service into the box. He has excellent poaching instincts in the penalty area already. His awareness and anticipation allow him to be first to the ball on rebounds and find openings in the defence.
Above all, Konaté provides excellent confidence. He has added a bit of flair and fearlessness to his game that makes him particularly threatening as a striker because it makes him unpredictable. However, his shot power is rather average. That is why he does not pose much of a threat when shooting from outside the penalty area and needs to continue developing his weaker left foot.
As you can see in his shot map down below, Konaté does not provide many shots from outside the box. However, in this season (2. Liga Austria and UEFA Youth League combined), he scored 10 goals. To reach this, he attempted 63 shots with average xGoals of 0.12 per shot. This means an overall xGoals stat of 7.76 which Konaté overperforms by 2.34 (=10 goals).
In most situations, he lacks accuracy when attempting to head passes. This means that he needs improvement and more direction on his flicked headers. Currently, he is also continuing to improve on his final pass and he is developing the ability to create for his teammates. He often recognises space like in the image below, but the accuracy of his passes needs improvement.
But, he needs to be more efficient with his decision-making when helping the team in the build-up phase. He often attempts to go for the deadly pass when maintaining possession is the better option.
Konaté excels at receiving the ball out wide and maintaining possession to allow more teammates to join the attack. He is getting better and better as an outlet to relieve pressure. His incredible speed allows him to stretch and keep on the defensive line, always looking to play on the back shoulder of centre-backs and full-backs.
However, he struggles to hold the ball up in the centre of the field against physically imposing centre-backs. He often fails to win headers when he has to wait for the ball and the opponent can attack him on aerial duels, making him currently an inadequate target man.
While the physical traits that Konaté has are clear to see and suggest that he is ready to play a role in the UEFA Champions League club: His emphasis on playing the ball quickly along with his predatory instincts in the penalty area indicate his potential to succeed at the very top. Konaté attacks services into the penalty area to finish with his head or feet and with continued physical development should, he will fit the ideal profile of a pure striker.
At this point, it is important that he continues to improve his ability to link up with the midfield and his fellow attackers in order to be a bit more versatile, which will help him fit into any forward slot in a three-player front line.
However, it is essential that his development is handled carefully. There are two players who come to mind when seeing what future development path is to come for Konaté: Romelu Lukaku and Amad Diallo. Lukaku found an excellent level to develop by moving on loan from Chelsea to West Bromwich Albion and then Everton, places where he benefitted from being used out wide at times in addition to his natural spot at the head of the formation.
Diallo, however, while still being young at this point, has struggled to graduate to senior club football on loan at Rangers and has seen little time with parent club Manchester United’s first team. If Konaté is to discover superstardom, Salzburg should treat him with utmost care regarding what is the best situation for him to find his stride.