Five years have passed since Joël Matip made the switch from boyhood club Schalke 04 to Liverpool on a free transfer.
After making 258 appearances for Gelsenkirchen based club and winning a DFB Pokal, the Cameroonian international’s arrival had fans very hopeful he would be a valuable addition to the Reds.
He was a valuable addition to the project Jürgen Klopp was trying to build in the early stages of his tenure at Liverpool, and has continued to play a major role when fit – but staying injury-free has been his biggest challenge.
Here’s a look at Matip’s five years at Anfield:
From Schalke to Anfield
The former Schalke man joined Liverpool as Klopp’s second ever signing, only preceded by the acquisition of Marko Grujić from Red Star Belgrade.
In his first season with the club he featured regularly, playing 32 time across all competitions and helping Liverpool to a fourth-placed finish to secure Champions League football for 2017/18. This was a massive improvement on the eighth-placed finish in the 2015/16 season.
The defender’s influence on Klopp’s side was noticeably visible. His arrival at the heart of the defence saw the Reds concede eight fewer goals in the Premier League based on the previous season and achieve a further clean sheet than was achieved in the 2015/16 season.
However, not all things were plain sailing for the centre-back. Regularly partnered with Mamadou Sakho or Dejan Lovren, mistakes were common and Liverpool’s defence could be shaky to say the least. Matip was punished for an error in this season which led to a goal.
In 2017/18, Matip was a major part of the Liverpool team which reached the Champions League final in Kiev and achieved another fourth-placed finish in the Premier League. Making a total of 31 appearances across the two competitions – six coming on the run to the UCL final – the 29-year-old stamped his impression on Klopp’s side as one of its key men.
This season spelled the start of his partnership with Virgil van Dijk, who arrived from Southampton in the January of 2018 – a partnership which became even more prevalent in the 2018/19 season but featured on the run to Kiev.Embed from Getty Images
Van Dijk’s Rolls Royce like defending elevated the game of both Lovren and Matip and Liverpool looked a much stronger outfit defensively as a result. This addition to the defence saw some of Matip’s best performances in a Liverpool shirt.
Champions League and Premier League success
Liverpool reached a UEFA Champions League final in 2017/18, and the Cameroonian played a major part in the progression of Klopp’s project that season. And, of course, they went one better the season after.
Matip played a massive role in Liverpool’s sixth Champions League win featuring eight times on the way to victory in Madrid. Whilst Matip’s performances on the run to the final were important with big performances against Bayern Munich standing out, his biggest contribution came in the final.
In the 87th minute, with Liverpool 1-0 up against Spurs, a corner was cleared into Matip’s path and he looped it on for Divock Origi to nestle the ball into the bottom corner and win number six. This assist will go down in history and is undoubtedly Matip’s biggest contribution in a Liverpool shirt.
The former Schalke man also played a major part in Liverpool amassing 97 points in the Premier League and second place finish, making 22 league appearances despite struggling with injuries. In the following season, like in Madrid, Matip and co. went one better than the previous season.
Matip played nine times in the best league season in Liverpool’s modern history. Totalling a club record 99 points in the Premier League saw Liverpool lift that elusive title and the Cameroonian add a Premier League medal to his collection to go with his Champions League gong from the 2018/19 season.
The centre-back’s contributions to this season were small due to injury struggles but considering his role in the development of the club and Klopp’s project, a Premier League medal was no less than what he deserved.
Liverpool’s Champions League win in the 2018/19 season, resulted in two other opportunities for Matip and his teammates to add more silverware to their CVs in the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.
Klopp steered the Reds to success in both of theses competitions with Matip playing 120 minutes in the Super Cup before defeating Chelsea on penalties. Matip’s spell at Liverpool has seen him win four trophies.
Injuries and the 2020/21 season
Injuries are something that have plagued the Bochum-born defender’s career. This has been no different at Liverpool – where he has missed an accumulative 105 games due to injuries across his five years at the club. Major injuries to his knee and ankle have seen him make only 19 league appearances across the last two seasons.Embed from Getty Images
Injuries have been a key feature of Liverpool’s season in 2020/21 with van Dijk and Gomez both suffering season-ending injuries.
The absence of Liverpool’s starting pair at centre-back saw more responsibility placed upon the Cameroonian’s back but injuries plagued him from being able to step up to the role with inexperienced defenders Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams having to fill the gaps. These constant struggles with injuries have raised questions over his Liverpool future.
What’s next for Matip?
Matip is fondly thought of by many Liverpool fans and is undoubtedly a cult hero due to many things including his marauding runs from defence, unique personality which has become more apparent with the rise of No Context Matip and that vital assist in Madrid.
This feeling is also shared by Klopp with the former Schalke man being a reliable figure for the Reds and a major part of the development of the club since the German arrived in 2015.
The summer transfer window has seen Liverpool acquire the services of centre-back Ibrahima Konaté and has raised doubts over whether that could spell the end of Matip’s time at Anfield.Due to unavailability with injuries, Matip’s status in the squad has declined and the former Leipzig man’s arrival won’t help this.
Although, Matip is widely regarded as a key figure in the dressing room and could provide a decent cover option if he is required to play less – meaning injuries may be less frequent. But it’s not all that likely a player of his calibre would settle for a bit-part role while at the peak of his ability.
Whether Matip is sold or stays, one thing is sure that his five years have been successful and he will be remembered fondly by Liverpool fans for years to come.
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