18.09.2011, Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen, GER, 1. FBL, FC Schalke 04 vs FC Bayern Muenchen, im Bild Zweikampf Joel Matip (#32 Schalke) - Nils Petersen (#9 Muenchen)// during 1. FBL FC Schalke 04 vs FC Bayern Muenchen at Veltins Arena, Gelsenkirchen, GER, 2011-09-18. EXPA Pictures © 2011, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ nph/ Kurth ****** out of GER / CRO / BEL ******

Joel Matip: Profiling the Schalke centre-back on Liverpool’s radar

Joel Matip represents a realistic transfer option for Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp looks to beef up his squad, and the Schalke defender could be a strong addition.

Klopp is thought to have made Matip a priority target with the Cameroon international entering the final six months of his contract with Schalke.

This would likely see Matip join Liverpool next summer, with Schalke manager Andre Breitenreiter ruling out a winter transfer as he plots for a strong finish to the 2015/16 campaign.

The Reds are able to discuss terms with Matip from the beginning of next year, with Klopp likely searching for a replacement for Kolo Toure.

But who is Matip, and will he fit in at Liverpool?


Joel Matip

Born in Bochum to German and Cameroonian parents, Matip began his career as a youngster with SC Weitmar 45, before joining local side VfL Bochum in 1997 as a six-year-old.

Bochum were a force in the Bundesliga at the time, and Matip slowly progressed through the youth ranks before Schalke made an audacious move to sign him in 2000, leaving his older brother, Marvin, behind.

Joel and Marvin are sons of former Cameroon international Jean Matip, with the family enjoying a rich footballing heritage.

Schalke nurtured this innate talent in their academy while Matip attended the Gesamtschule Berger Feld, a comprehensive school which boasts Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler and Benedikt Howedes among its alumni.

Nine years after his arrival at Schalke, Matip made his Bundesliga debut against Louis van Gaal’s Bayern Munich.

Starting at the base of the midfield in a lineup that also included Howedes, Matip saw his side go behind to a Daniel van Buyten strike in the opening half hour, but 12 minutes later the then-18-year-old rose to nod in Lukas Schmitz’s cross to secure a 1-1 draw for the Gelsenkirchen side.

Matip was named Man of the Match, and given German publication Kicker‘s highest rating of any player to feature.

Matip went on to make 20 Bundesliga appearances in his first season in the Schalke first team, almost exclusively utilised as a defensive midfielder, before going on to play a utility role in the following campaign.

Though able to operate at right-back, left-back and in midfield, Matip is a natural centre-back, and in 2011/12 he established himself as first choice in that role—largely alongside Howedes.

Matip has made 176 Bundesliga appearances for Schalke over seven seasons to date, scoring 16 goals and assisting on a further 10.


Strengths, Weakness & Style of Play

Matip is a quick, aggressive central defender who serves as Schalke’s front-footed ball winner alongside either the more reserved Howedes, Roman Neustadter or former Manchester City man Matija Nastasic, and relies on a number of key strengths to implement this style of play.

Namely, Matip is blessed with significant pace, which allows him to step out of defence to counter attacking threats, but also make recovery runs when required.

He has averaged 3.4 successful interceptions per 90 league minutes so far this season, more than any Liverpool player.

At 6’4″, Matip is a strong aerial defender, but while his gangly frame does suggest he would be a limited option in the centre of defence, the Cameroon international is blessed with considerable technique, too.

His pace and agility lend him to a variety of roles in the defensive sector, and this versatility is one of Matip’s key strengths.

For a side looking for cover on the flanks and the base of midfield, Matip is a useful option, and his physicality and ease in possession suggest he would be welcome addition to the Premier League—he is also able to play on either the left or right side in the centre-back role.

With considerable experience in the Budnesliga, Champions League and the Europa League at just 24, Matip is a seasoned professional.

As this current campaign has shown, however, Matip currently lacks a consistency to his game.

After beginning the season in fine form, Matip’s output dipped dramatically at the beginning of October, with a pair of dismal displays against Cologne and Borussia Monchengladbach contributing to two major defeats for Schalke.

He has since begun to produce the solid performances that he had become renowned for, however, suggesting that this may well have been a blip more related to the side’s collective form.

Furthermore, while Matip is admirably front-footed, his aggression can often see him make desperate lunges and unintuitive moves to thwart attacks, with his ambition sometimes getting the better of him.

This is something that is yet to be ironed out of his game, belying the potential that he showed as a future top-level, ball-playing defender when first bursting through at Schalke.

At 24, however, these are areas of Matip’s game that can still be fine-tuned, and Klopp’s interest suggests he is confident of being able to do so.


Where Will Matip Fit in at Liverpool?

Matip’s arrival in the summer would neatly usher out the commendable reign of Toure as Liverpool’s backup centre-back.

But owing to the 24-year-old’s burgeoning quality, Matip is likely to be targeting a regular first-team role if he is to join Klopp’s squad—and there is certainly a place for him.

Matip’s versatility will allow him to slot in to a number of roles in Klopp’s starting lineup, but a position partnering Mamadou Sakho in the centre of defence will no doubt be preferable to him.

Able to play at both left and right centre-back, however, Matip is a feasible partner to Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez, too.

Signing a player of Matip’s versatility would relieve Liverpool’s regular injury problems significantly.

His Bundesliga-honed skill set suggests he could adapt quickly to life at Anfield, too.

Available on a free transfer, likely signed for a relatively low wage, able to cover a number of positions to a high standard and with scope to develop into a strong performer in the Premier League, signing Matip is something of a no-brainer for Klopp.