The end of the line for Joel Matip?
Since Jurgen Klopp stepped in as Liverpool boss the sparkle that often surrounded deadline day has disappeared, and for the main part this is a good thing.
This season has been one like no other, the squad has been hugely depleted in every position. Particularly at centre back where Fabinho and Jordan Henderson have been forced to deputise on occasion due to the amount of injuries the Reds have suffered.
This caused a crazy deadline day to ensue with multiple names linked. In the end Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak joined to aid the defensive issues.
However, the positive news of two recruits was soon to be met with disappointing reports that Joel Matip would miss the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury sustained in the first half of the victory over Spurs.
An injury that could spell the end of Matip’s Liverpool career, having been one of Klopp’s first signings at the club.
The ex-Cameroonian international has become a vital member of the Liverpool rear guard since joining on a free transfer in 2016. His aerial ability in both boxes has greatly improved the side on set-pieces. It’s also his strength in the air that has allowed the Reds to pin opposition teams into their own half with Matip and Van Dijk often playing the majority of matches on the halfway line.
Defensively a very clever player, there is always a sense of calmness when he plays. Pace wise, he can roll with the fastest in the league. As recently as last week we seen him go stride for stride with Heung Min Son and dispossess the Spurs star with ease, before gliding away with the ball.
This has been a regular occurrence over the years, Matip has never been the type of defender to dive in or be over-aggressive. Something we had seen far too much of from those before him.
Attacking wise Matip is a huge asset too, he is a constant threat from corners, can play through the lines and generally progresses the ball efficiently. But what is actually most important about Matip’s attacking ability is the marauding dribbles forward that so often committed defenders and gave Liverpool a brilliant attacking platform.
This often drew in defenders and allowed the ball to go wide where both full backs would be waiting in acres of space. On other occasions Matip would go for the more direct option of slipping through one of the attackers. This just added to Liverpool’s ability over the past few years to break down low-blocks.
Matip is by all accounts adored by the fans around Anfield and has enjoyed great success in his time at the club. This leads to the question – why sell him?
Unfortunately for Matip the answer simply lies within his injury record: since joining the club, absence from the side has been his biggest weakness by a distance.
For this reason it looks like Matip may be heading for the exit door in the summer. There have been ramblings for quite a while now the Liverpool would be signing a centre back in the next window. Those ramblings appear to now have legs as it was evident that Liverpool in fact tried for three defenders on deadline day.
The main links were to Duje Caleta-Car, Sven Botman and David Carmo. This along with the constant rumours surrounding the Leipzig pair of Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate means that it’s likely at least one centre back will go out the door.
Whilst Matip is still just 29 and arguably going in to his peak years, it is unlikely that we will keep a player with such severe injury issues. By the time the last game of this season will be played on the 23rd May, Matip will have missed 395 days through injury since joining the club in 2016.
Although he has produced some stellar performances since joining. It looks ever more likely that Matip’s time at the club is up.