Amid endless reports of new signings arriving at Liverpool this summer, and the exit of numerous players, Joel Matip has almost become something of a forgotten man.
The 31-year-old enjoyed a really tough season for the Reds, like so many, with too many erratic performances playing their part in a campaign of struggles.
Matip’s performance in the 3-0 defeat away to Wolves was arguably his nadir in 2022/23, on an afternoon that suggested his best days are behind him.
With Ibrahima Konate now Virgil van Dijk’s undisputed first-choice centre-back partner moving forward – the Frenchman was Liverpool’s best defender for most of last season – there is no question that Matip is now a squad player, as is the case with the similarly scrutinised Joe Gomez.
With 12 months remaining on his current deal, though, the Reds find themselves in a position where they could consider saying yes to an offer for him this summer, or simply accept that he will leave on a free transfer in 2024, as could apply with Thiago, too.
Last week, Jamie Carragher admitted that he would consider selling him before the start of next season, saying, “I look at the defence and I think Joel Matip now has got a year to go [on his contract]. If you got £10 million, whatever the price may be, it’s probably right to move on.”
While the Liverpool legend has a point, for all Matip’s drop off in influence, continued injuries and advancing years, it is still preferable to keep hold of him.
Having depth at the heart of Liverpool’s defence remains essential, and assuming the former Schalke man is happy to be a fourth or fifth-choice central defender, it makes perfect sense to retain his services.
Matip is a superb team player and someone who is adored in the dressing room – who could forget THAT video of him attempting to act during a hilarious “Team Meeting” spoof back in 2020 – and at 31, he is still good enough to be filling in sporadically and doing a solid job.
The German-born former Cameroon international has been a wonderful player for Liverpool, possibly standing out as their best player in the 2019 Champions League final win over Tottenham, and one of the best free transfers in the club’s history.
He hasn’t become a liability overnight, even if he isn’t as dominant as he was two or three years ago, and players his age are more than capable of enjoying a late-career turnaround.
Writing him off and accepting an offer after one bad season, in which so many were below-par, feels harsh, and while receiving no money for him next year isn’t ideal, the Reds will benefit more from having him around.
The Europa League will allow Jurgen Klopp to rotate his squad and use fringe players for a chunk of the competition, so Matip could be seen as a regular in that competition, alongside Gomez, assuming he also stays put.
Should injury strike down Konate or Van Dijk, it would be a big setback, but Liverpool’s No.32 can still do a perfectly good job, assuming he overcomes last season’s slump.
Hopefully, another centre-back is also signed, with left-footed options such as Goncalo Inacio, Micky van de Ven and Levi Colwill all linked with moves to Liverpool, with any of those leaping above Matip in the defensive pecking order.
Still having him around for one last dance is the best outcome, though, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see a few more big displays, not to mention iconic, meme-worthy moments, thrown in next season.
Matip should be treated like both Roberto Firmino and James Milner have been in recent weeks, with the club allowing his contract to run down before giving him a rapturous reception this time next year.