Joël Matip – Jürgen Klopp’s most obvious first choice centre back

Signed by Jürgen Klopp on a free transfer in February 2016, Joël Matip had to wait and play the rest of the last season through for Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, before becoming the very first player to be signed by Liverpool’s new manager Jürgen Klopp. Klopp reportedly admired the tall and highly skilled centre back while he was manager of Borussia Dortmund. It’s worth noting that Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 are local German rivals akin to Liverpool and Manchester United in England. Two well established Bundesliga clubs in the same district of Germany. That match is just as important to both sets of fans as a match against Bayern München – a German club all fans take a great delight in beating home or away. In Germany there are some local derbies, and the most important one certainly must be the games between Burussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.

Born in Bochum to a German mother and a Cameroonian father (8 August 1991), Joël Matip is a son of a footballing family, his father being a Cameroonian footballer, his brother Marvin being a Cameroonian national team player. He is also a cousin of former Cameroonian national team forward Joseph-Desiré Job, who played for Middlesbrough for a while.

As things stand it seems unlikely that Matip wants to play any more for Cameroon, he in fact wanted to play for his country of birth, Germany, until he gave up on that idea. He took part in the World Cup in 2010 and 2014, but it seems like his international career is put on hold for now. He has 27 international caps for Cameroon, but according to Transfermarkt Joël Matip is now to be considered a former Cameroonian national team player.

Very tall – 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) – Matip is a king in the air. What makes him really special is that he is also very good on the ball, which means he is also a defensive midfield option in front of two other centre backs like Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan if needed to be. It’s difficult to find players who are all that easily compared to Matip, his height and ball skills taken into account. As a matter of fact I can only think of former Norwegian centre back Rune Bratseth who had great success in Bundesliga playing for Werder Bremen, winning the league title twice, the German cup once and also the European Cup-winners Cup trophy. Bratseth was considered a world class player from 1989 – 1998. Franz Beckenbauer called him in 1990 and said he would have been a regular pick for his German national team if only he was a German citizen. In 1990 Germany won the FIFA World Cup. What a compliment!

Matip’s ability to carry the ball out of defence as well as his comfort with the ball at his feet reminds me a little of ex Leeds United and Manchester United player Rio Ferdinand. Tall and skilled on the ball Matip shares the same traits as the former England centre back.  Joël Matip could actually prove to be a better player than Alan Hansen, Sami Hyypiä and Jamie Carragher were. Time will tell the tale.

What must be very clear is that Jürgen Klopp signed this brilliant centre back in order to get a defensive boss, to be aligned with any other centre back at any given time, be it Dejan Lovren, Ragner Klavan, Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Levia or Joe Gomes. Matip’s name  is for me the very first name on the team sheet, alongside Natianel Clyne, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.

Matip is the defensive general that Liverpool have missed since Janie Carragher retired and his experience will prove invaluable particularly for the big and potentially extra difficult games.

Written by @MagneLeoKarlsen

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