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'Composed, physical & worth £15m' - Meet Liverpool new-boy Joel Matip


Liverpool have confirmed defender Joel Matip will join the club as a free agent in the summer following the expiration of his contract with Schalke.

The centre-back has agreed a four-year deal with the Reds and becomes the second permanent signing under Jurgen Klopp following the addition of Red Star Belgrade starlet Marko Grujic in January, who will also link up with the squad ahead of 2016-17.

What will Matip add during the manager's first full season in charge of Liverpool? 

That the Bundesliga outfit exhausted themselves in trying to convince the 24-year-old to renew terms is a sizeable clue to how much he is valued at Schalke and how well respected he is in Germany.

Having come from a football family, scouts were already monitoring Matip from the age of six. He had youth spells at SC Weitmar 45 and local club Bochum before Schalke recruited him to their academy in 2000. He turned out for their second team in the fourth tier and made his professional debut at 18.

On his Bundesliga bow - against Louis van Gaal's Bayern Munich - Matip played as a midfield anchor, scored in a 1-1 draw and was named man of the match. The Bochum-born man's versatility would also see him operate as a full-back before he was positioned at the heart of defence in 2011-12.

Matip has been a regular for Schalke ever since and has amassed over 200 appearances in all competitions for the club. He has won two major honours, lifting the DFB-Pokal and DFL-Supercup in 2011, and could yet add the Europa League to that list this season.

After lengthy deliberation, Matip decided in 2010 to represent his father's country of birth Cameroon over Germany on the international scene. He wore their colours at that summer's World Cup in South Africa and netted against hosts Brazil at the showpiece four years later.

Composed and comfortable on the ball, Matip likes to lead on the front foot. He is familiar with playing in a high line and is a superb reader of the game.

He is strong at interceptions, in the tackle, take-ons, with aerial duels and is not just a solid defender of set-pieces, he is a major goal threat up the other end of the field with 16 of his 17 goals from Schalke coming from set plays.

Having featured in midfield, Matip possesses varied and accomplished distribution skills. At 6'4", he has managed to blend his physicality with poise. Prone to the odd mistake, the Cameroon international is still quite young for a centre-back and has further developing to do in his position.

While he has only missed one game through injury in this campaign, 2014-15 saw him miss 15 fixtures through an assortment of setbacks. With Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Dejan Lovren and Kolo Toure all requiring treatment this term, Liverpool will hope last season remains the anomaly with regards to Matip's injury history.
Liverpool will know it is superb business to get Matip on a free as he could easily fetch a fee upwards of £15 million. During the off-season, Schalke general manager Horst Heldt admitted he was "one of the most underrated players in the game" but knew it would be near impossible to keep Matip in Gelsenkirchen and away from potential suitors.

Klopp was not going to pass up the chance to tie up a deal for a defender with European experience whom he knows well and highly admires - especially on a free!

"I think now is the time to try something new, to go abroad to a traditional club in a superb league; I'm excited for what's coming in summer (i.e. moving to Liverpool). But for now I'm focusing on the here and now in Schalke."
"It goes without saying that we're all very sad today, but it was always clear that Joel would make a fundamental decision for his footballing career. He spent a long time deliberating over what the right thing to do was, and he's now decided to go for something new.

"Unfortunately we can't move Schalke into the Premier League, otherwise I think he'd probably have renewed his contract with us. So it's just about learning something new, maybe re-defining himself."