Joel Matip – Who Is Klopp’s Newest Recruit?

Jurgen Klopp hasn’t wasted much time in restocking his armoury for next season having secured the services of Schalke defender Joel Matip this week on a free transfer.

It is the second permanent signing made by Klopp since his arrival on Merseyside following the signature of Marko Grujic from Red Star Belgrade, who like Matip, will assume Anfield duties this summer.

The Beginning
But Klopp’s signing of Matip, put alongside the loan deal he struck for Steven Caulker in January, is evidence of how high Liverpool’s defence rates on his list of priorities, as he alluded to when he joined the club in October. So who is the latest recruit and how will he fit into Klopp’s plan to put Liverpool back on their perch at the peak of English football?

Born in Bochum to a German mother and a Cameroonian father capped by his country, Matip spent 3 years at VFL Bochum’s academy before being scouted by Schalke in 2000, a month before his 9th birthday. He spent years in the lower ranks of Schalke’s youth set up before graduating to first team duties in November 2009, when he earned a draw for his side by scoring on his debut in a Man of the Match performance against Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich.

Veteran At 24
Since then, he has went on to make over 200 appearances for the Bundesliga side and will have spent 16 years (two thirds of his life) at the club by the time he packs his bags for Merseyside in July. Despite the efforts of German legend Matthias Sammer, he elected to play for the country of his father’s birth and has made 27 appearances for Cameroon including two World Cups, the first of which was in South Africa in 2010 when he was a mere 18 years old.

In terms of what type of player Liverpool are getting, it is perhaps appropriate to revisit the Caulker loan deal and note Jurgen Klopp’s reasoning for acquiring the QPR centre half:

We looked for a good header of the ball because that’s what we need – we want to play good pressing, we want to press the opponent so they have to play long balls.

“If they play long balls, you need people in the last line who can help you with headers.”

At 6 foot 4, Matip will become the tallest player in the Liverpool ranks and should be well equipped to deal with the type of tactics Klopp will try to force his opponents to resort to. But Liverpool are getting more than just a lump who can clear set pieces and long balls.

The 24 year old has also appeared in Schalke’s line up as a holding midfielder and has plenty of other attributes in his locker including pace and aggression. He rates highly in the stats columns too, having made the most interceptions, tackles and clearances for Schalke this season. He has also completed more dribbles this season than any other centre-half at Liverpool and is renowned for being comfortable on the ball, with a pass rate of over 90% in the 3 Champions League games he has played this season.

With European competition under his belt, as well as his experience on the international stage, it is easy to see why Klopp has opted to secure the services of Schalke’s ever-present defender this season.

With only 1 red card (rescinded) in his 7 years as a pro at Schalke and an average of a goal every 10 games, we expect this cousin of ex Middlesbrough striker Joseph-Désiré Job to feature in plenty of discussions when you come to select your dream team line-ups this August.