MATCHDAY PROGRAMME

“His development has been enormous” – Is Liverpool’s next Joel Matip out on loan?

With Joel Matip‘s time at Liverpool likely to be drawing to a close, the Reds could already have their replacement at the club in Sepp van den Berg.

The young Dutch defender has been on loan in the Bundesliga for the last 18 months: first at Schalke, now with Mainz.

Despite last season ending in relegation and his current club being on the same path, Van den Berg has actually impressed during his time away from Merseyside.

So could he have a future at Liverpool? Or do suggestions of an option to buy at Mainz spell a summer sale?

Sam Millne (@sam_millne) spoke to Bundesliga commentators Dan O’Hagan (@danohagan) and Kevin Hatchard (@kevinhatchard) to discuss the 22-year-old defender’s prospects.

 

Where has he looked best?

DAN: Well I saw him maybe have his best game at Dortmund (1-1) in December, where he played on the left of their defence that night.

At Mainz, obviously they tend to sit very, very deep. They’re very defensive, they know their limitations.

I’d love to see him play in a better team to get a real measure of what his all-round game is like, because right now he’s very much backs to the wall, all hands at the pump.

KEVIN: He has played mainly in a back four, and has looked comfortable in that setup, but I see no reason why he couldn’t play in a three.

 

How has he developed this season?

2RWF3PX Mainz's Sepp van den Berg during a German Bundesliga soccer match between FSV Mainz 05 and VfB Stuttgart in Mainz, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

DAN: Obviously Schalke went down last season and Mainz are in the relegation places this season as well, but Van Den Berg’s development has been enormous.

These are two seasons now of playing in a major European league. He’s not looked out of place at all.

As I say, this season he’s really taken strides forward in his game,

KEVIN: Van den Berg has had a solid season in a struggling Mainz team.

He has started the majority of matches at centre-back, and is developing well, just as he did in a struggling Schalke side last season.

 

What do the stats say?

2TC43DH Sepp van den Berg (1. FSV Mainz 05, #3) applaudiert Richtung Kurve 1. Fu?ball Bundesliga, 1. FC K?ln - 1. FSV Mainz 05, K?ln, Rheinenergiestadion am 10.12.2023 DFL REGULATIONS PROHIBIT ANY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS AS IMAGE SEQUENCES AND/OR QUASI-VIDEO.

KEVIN: At time of writing he has won 110 aerial duels, putting him second in the overall list.

He has generally looked comfortable in possession, and he has been clocked at a top speed of 34.78 km/h this term, putting him in the top 30 of Bundesliga players.

Even though Mainz have only won once in the league this term, their main problem has been scoring goals, not keeping them out.

They actually have one of the league’s best records in terms of shots allowed this season.

DAN: I think if you look at aerial duels won, best centre-back in the league.

He scored a goal against Dortmund in December and, in a very, very shaky and very muddled Mainz season, he’s been, by a long way, their best defensive player.

 

Should he get a chance at Liverpool?

SINGAPORE - Friday, July 15, 2022: Liverpool's Sepp van den Berg during the Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at the Singapore National Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

DAN: I don’t see why not. This season he’s really taken strides forward in his game, so he’s certainly worth a go at Liverpool.

He’s a player with experience in the Eredivisie already under his belt, now two years in the Bundesliga, and he’s got better and better each season.

KEVIN: If Mainz stay up, it wouldn’t surprise me if they trigger the buy option, as he’s been one of their better performers – even if Mainz have only won once in the league this term.


• Thanks again to Dan O’Hagan and Kevin Hatchard for their insight on Sepp van den Berg. Follow Dan @danohagan and Kevin @kevinhatchard on Twitter.