Liverpool: Joël Matip’s Future Hangs In The Balance

Michael Bisset
Read Time:4 Minute, 55 Second

Midnight on the 1st of February signified the end of the January transfer window for 2021. Concluding a month in which Liverpool suffered their worst run of form in nearly three seasons.

Michael Edwards and Jurgen Klopp talking Liverpool

Liverpool’s centre back crises

The Reds decided to start the season with three centre backs. Dejan Lovren left for Zenit in the Summer and Fabinho would be used to cover the position.

Consequently, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez picked up season-ending injuries before mid-November. Leaving the Reds reliant on Matip and Fabinho as they negotiated their title-defence.

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Sadly, Joël Matip has struggled for fitness.

Fabinho has been impeccable when called upon. Unfortunately the Brazilian has faced his own injuries issues recently exasperating an already treacherous situation.

Matip breaking down in Liverpool’s win over Spurs was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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Subsequently, forcing Michael Edwards and Jürgen Klopp to move decisively through signing two recruits.

Namely Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak. The former, signed from Preston North End for an initial £500k. The latter, a highly-rated youngster from Schalke, signed on advice from Klopp’s best mate David Wagner.

Could this decision spell the end of Joel Matip‘s Liverpool career?

The new boys

Ben Davies, a left-footed central defender with strong ball-playing ability.

Developing through The Lilywhites’ youth system. He has risen through the lower levels of English football to join the Premier League Champions.

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Ozan Kabak is described as strong in aerial duels and defensive blocks. However, he has had an inconsistent campaign in a desperate Schalke outfit. He has not signed on a permanent deal. The mastery of Michael Edwards has meant that the Reds have an option on the young centre back.

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As a result, Liverpool has the opportunity to sign the defender for a measly £18m in the Summer.

Squad Balance

Klopp has never believed in a massive squad – many have seen it as an avenue to criticise the German.

However, a COVID_19 ravaged campaign has forced the manager’s hand.

Liverpool was always going to be exposed once Virgil van Dijk picked up his injury. Joe Gomez and Joël Matip are quality centre halves. Their availability has always been their greatest weakness.

Edwards and his team were decisive on deadline day. Liverpool moved swiftly to secure Davies and Kabak. But, that means that there are six senior centre backs on the books at Anfield.

Obviously, Kabak is a loan move. He could be nothing more than a stop-gap to see the campaign through. Nonetheless, should the young Turk perform – will Liverpool look to sell one of their senior defenders?

Defenders at risk.

Virgil van Dijk is safe. He is the best defender in the World so nobody would ever think of selling him. Joe Gomez is the youngest of the established group – his injuries have left supporters frustrated but he should survive any possible axe.

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Ben Davies has not represented Liverpool yet but his value will have already sky-rocketed. Once you sign for the Premier League Champions, your stocks tend to rise. Even so, selling him after 6-months seems quite heartless.

That leaves three. Kabak, Matip and Phillips. Ozan Kabak may have a torrid spell and return to Gelsenkirchen as swiftly as his transfer was completed. But he truly does have it all to play for. Phillips is a solid performer when called upon and will want to prove that he deserves a slot in next season’s plans. Unfortunately, it may be a stretch too far for the lad from Bolton.

Joël Matip is in a unique situation. He has no say over the decision as he is completely reliant on the performances of his team-mates. The Cameroonian will be out until the end of June.

Injury Record

Matip has sat on the sidelines for 434 days since arriving in Merseyside (assuming that he is out until the 30th of June this year).

Horrendous numbers for a senior squad member crossing into his thirties this year. Liverpool has attempted to manage his minutes but you never feel confident that he will get a run of fixtures due to his appalling injury-record since joining in 2016.

Falling Value

Liverpool Football Club is renowned for their astute workings in the transfer market.

Of course, Michael Edwards and his team will be well-aware of Matip’s situation. The defender is likely to lose value gradually. His injury problems make him unattractive to prospective buyers whilst his age is slowly going against him.

Despite being one of the league’s top central defenders – availability is one of football’s most valuable commodities.

Transfermarkt list his value as just below £30m.

Therefore, if Liverpool can procure an amount in that region. It offers the possibility of a £12m profit should they sign Kabak in the Summer.

NET Spend wins again.

Contract Length and Pecking Order

The defender has 3-and-a-half years left on his current deal.

Though, as seen at Liverpool in recent seasons. Long-term contracts hardly translate into squad security. Players are given longer deals to protect their value and ensure that the Reds will hold all the aces in transfer negotiations.

Having said that, Matip’s value is unlikely to increase. Liverpool may look to cash-in before the Cameroonian’s appeal plummets.

Uncertainty remains.

To conclude, Matip’s future is completely reliant on Ozan Kabak’s form.

Undoubtedly a top player and a valued member of the squad. Rarely putting in a mediocre performance when donning the jersey.

Critically, numerous factors go against the former Schalke man and his luck may have run dry. The next few months could be defining for the future of Liverpool’s lanky number 32.

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