Schalke defender Joel Matip will join on a free transfer at the end of the season once his current deal with German club expires.
The 24-year-old is set to leave the Veltins-Arena having played nearly seven seasons for Schalke after coming through the club youth academy.
Although Matip is by no means an unknown figure to football fans across Europe thanks to the Gelsenkirchen outfit’s Champions League appearances in recent seasons, his status in the Bundesliga is criminally underrated.
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Here are four facts highlighting why Liverpool might have picked up one of the bargains of the summer months before the window has even opened.
1. DEFENSIVE BRILLIANCE
The Cameroon international boasts some of the finest statistics in the Bundesliga this season, rivalling the likes of Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels in certain departments.
According to WhoScored, Matip ranks third in the German top-flight for total shots blocked (19) and second for passes blocked (14) to give him an average of 0.9 blocks per game – the fifth-highest in the division.
The Schalke man also made the ninth-most successful tackles in the Bundesliga, though he is not one to simply fly around the pitch sticking his foot in. Matip is meticulous in choosing when to attempt to dispossess an opponent, as evidenced by his tackling success rate of 84 per cent.
His knack for reading the play is uncanny, too. An average of 3.2 interceptions and 4.9 clearances per game puts him among the top 15 best in the league.
As indicated by the performance figures above, Matip is first and foremost a centre-back for good reason. However, he has looked far from out of place when filling in as a midfielder at times throughout his career.
The centre-back’s elegance in possession is more than just easy on the eye – he is blessed with the vision and technique to pick out a pass when the opportunity arises.
His total of 85 completed long passes is the eighth-best in the Bundesliga and his short game is equally as strong with 824 accurate short balls ranking him sixth in the competition.
3. GOALSCORING DEFENDER
Matip is by necessity a force to be reckoned when it comes to preventing the opposition from scoring, but he is also fast developing a reputation for occasionally reversing his role and finding the net himself.
The Schalke star has registered 24 strikes in all club competitions since the 2009-10 season, a haul not too far shy of Chelsea’s John Terry, who has bagged 35 during the same period.
Klopp clearly has not signed Matip to win the Premier League Golden Boot but it is certainly a bonus to have a proven goal-scoring defender within the Liverpool ranks.
It is easy to forget Matip is only 24-years-old, considering he has almost seven full seasons of Bundesliga experience under his belt.
The defender would be Liverpool’s third-youngest natural centre-back behind Joe Gomez and Steven Caulker if he were to join now, but it remains to be seen whether Klopp will bring in more long-term prospects during the summer.
Either way, the Reds have recruited a man who already has the quality to slot into their starting XI yet will be in peak physical condition for many years to come.
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