Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp feels the club have pulled off a major coup with the signing of Joel Matip from Schalke.
The 24-year-old will join the Reds from the Bundesliga side at the end of the season, having agreed a pre-contract at Anfield. And Klopp has told the club’s official website that getting the Cameroonian into his squad has long been on his mind:
He is a top-class centre-half, very young but experienced. You don’t have that too often. To be honest, when I had my break I thought for the next club, I should think about Joel, if there was a need.
He never played for my team, he did the extreme opposite—he played for their biggest opponent! Maybe that says a lot about his quality. Even when he played for the team you cannot love as Dortmund manager, you see his quality. Then that’s real quality.
In a summer that is likely to have a huge say in defining Klopp’s stint on Merseyside, Liverpool supporters will be encouraged by the club’s willingness to be proactive in bringing in players. Here is a look at the kind of quality Matip can offer:
In the same piece, Klopp gave his thoughts on what the defender will bring to the team. “He’s quick, he’s flexible in his movements and good in technical things,” said the German of Matip. “He has played in different systems, with four or three defenders. He scores goals, four or five per season minimum. He is good in the one-on-one and quick. It’s a package.”
As these statistics from WhoScored.com illustrate in earnest, Matip is also a player who can sense danger despite his relatively tender years:
Joel Matip: Only Daniel Baier (424) has made more interceptions in the last 5 Bundesliga seasons than Matip (421)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 15, 2016
Such an attribute is always key when it comes to young defenders.
Naturally, to acquire this kind of player on a free transfer is savvy business on the part of the Reds.
“If you asked in Germany what other clubs would have paid for him had he still been under contract, you can just take that number,” said Klopp, per James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo. “It’s clear there were a lot of other clubs interested. In Germany, for a player of his quality, who is out of contract, there is a lot of competition.”
Bleacher Report’s Jack Lusby thinks while Matip is an encouraging acquisition, it’s imperative his arrival is supplement by other signings:
Klopp also gave an emphatic “yes” when asked whether Matip was a player he had targeted, rather than one put forward by the club’s transfer committee.
It was the kind of signing the manager was always likely to make. Under his predecessor Brendan Rodgers, a lot of money was spent on the defence in players such as Mamadou Sakho, Alberto Moreno, Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne joining, however, it has always been a facet of the team that is a huge concern.
Klopp will know how important it is to strengthen this segment of the side and Matip is a player who is much more tailored to his blueprint than any of the other centre-back options available to him at Anfield.