All you need to know about Joel Matip

Liverpool and Schalke 04 both confirmed on Monday that versatile defender Joel Matip will swap Gelsenkirchen for Merseyside at the end of the current Bundesliga season.

Matip’s arrival on a free transfer in all likelihood spells the end of Kolo Toure’s tenure at Anfield, despite the popular Ivorian’s goal against Aston Villa at the weekend.

After spending 14 seasons in the Premier League with three of the division’s most recognisable clubs, Toure has become a household name, but what do you know about Matip?

We profile the Cameroon international…

The early days

Born in Bochum in 1991 to a Cameroonian father and a German mother, Matip began his career as a youth player at SC Weitmar 45, before joining local side VfL Bochum in 1997 as a six-year-old.

With Bochum being a strong Bundesliga side at the time, Matip progressed through the academy ranks there before leaving for Schalke in 2000.

Under the supervision of Die Königsblauen, or Royal Blues, Matip attended the Gesamtschule Berger Feld, which boasts the likes of Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil – to name but a few – among its alumni.

After spending nine years in the Schalke academy, he finally made his first-team debut in 2009, against a Louis van Gaal-led Bayern München.

Becoming a first team regular

After scoring on debut, he went on to make 19 more appearances for the Schalke first team, appearing almost exclusively at the base of the midfield in a holding role.

The following campaign, Matip was used almost exclusively as a utility player, featuring at left-back, right-back and defensive midfield.

It wasn’t until the 2011/12 campaign that he was given a regular spot at centre-back and, alongside Benedikt Höwedes, another Gesamtschule Berger Feld graduate, formed one of the Bundesliga’s most consistent defensive partnerships.

In total, he has 176 appearances in Germany’s top flight, and is sure to add a few more to his name before departing.

Style of play

At 6-foot-4, Matip is strong in the air at both ends of the pitch, as his 17 goals – the majority of which has come from set-pieces – attest.

However, instead of using his size to intimidate opposition players, he employs a calm demeanour, positioning and leadership qualities with great effect.

The 24-year-old is two-footed, and blessed with excellent pace, at least as much as can be expected of a man of his bulk. He is a front-footed ball winner, who likes to step up aggressively rather than drop deeper to cover.

So far in the 2015/16 season, he has averaged 3.4 successful interceptions per 90 league minutes, better than any player on Liverpool’s books.

While his gangly frame suggests someone uncomfortable in possession, such a view cannot be further from the truth. He is blessed with considerable technique and agility, and has been known to play the odd defense-splitting pass.

Where will Matip fit in at Liverpool?

Although he will take Toure’s place in the squad, Matip will be vying for a first-team spot alongside Mamadou Sakho, Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel.

Considering Jurgen Klopp generally prefers his teams set up with a high line – where defenders who like to step up rather than step back come to the fore – a Sakho-Matip connection seems the best fit, with Lovren being next in line.

Matip’s previous experience at playing on either side of the defense would also add depth to the Liverpool squad, where Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne has been played virtually throughout the season due to lack of options.

But don’t take our word for it, here’s a tidbit to wet the appetite of Reds fans…

Comments