According to a number of reports coming out of Germany, Liverpool are hard at work trying to sign Schalke’s versatile Joel Matip. The only question, at least according to the rumour mongers, is whether he will arrive at the club in January for a nominal fee or on a fee next summer when his current deal expires.
The 24-year-old Cameroon international has been a mainstay for Schalke for the past five seasons, playing at both centre half and as a defensive midfielder, but his sixth looks to be his last. He hasn’t signed a new contract and has now said he plans to move on next summer, with Liverpool installed as tentative favourites to land him.
Liverpool have long been rumoured suitors for teammate Leroy Sane, an interest that pre-dates the arrival of Jürgen Klopp at Anfield, though it isn’t clear whether Matip was similarly on Anfield shortlists before the German manager arrived. Meanwhile, Schalke do not appear overjoyed at the prospect of losing a key starter.
"I can rule out a winter departure," general manager Andre Brietenreiter told the German media when asked if his club would look to cash in on Matip before his contract expired and he left on a free. "I want to see more competition between the players in the second half of the season and we need to maximise their performances."
If the rumours are true, Liverpool will seek to negotiate a pre-contract with Matip early in January and, if they can, to then convince Schalke to change their minds and allow him to leave early in exchange for a nominal fee. If he were to arrive at Anfield, though, it’s far from clear what his intended role would be at the club.
With frequent injury concerns at centre half and only one established defensive midfielder, Matip could be targeted as a valuable swing option. However, he’s both young enough and good enough that it’s not hard to imagine him being targeted with a specific starting role in defence or midfield in mind.