Late in December, rumour had it Liverpool would try to convince Schalke to let defender Joel Matip leave for a nominal fee in January to avoid losing him on a free in the summer. When nothing happened in the first few weeks of the transfer window—and then when Liverpool brought in Steven Caulker on loan—most assumed any deal was off.
Fans have spent much of the rest of the month waiting on an announcement that Liverpool had agreed a pre-contract with the 24-year-old Cameroonian. That has yet to arrive, but today, Sky Germany are reporting that with the window winding down and Matip having made it clear he to Schalke he wants out, Liverpool have now made an official offer for the centre half.
If true, it would seem to make the arrival of Caulker nothing more than an insurance policy in case Liverpool couldn’t get a late deal done. It could also end up looking rather like the case of Lewis Holtby, who Schalke insisted they wouldn’t sell in 2013 with his contract running down only to in the end letting Tottenham have him for a quite paltry €1.75M fee.
In Matip’s case, there were reports early in January that Liverpool had offered a fee of around €4M for Schalke to let him go at the start of the month. That offer is unlikely to still be on the table, and if the eventual fee were to end up in the same region as what Spurs paid for Holtby, even taking Cauker’s wages into account would see Liverpool come out ahead in the deal.
Given the club’s injury crisis at centre half—a crisis they now appear to have largely ridden out—it seems likely Liverpool would have preferred an early deal regardless of that. If it comes to pass, it will also make for some very bad news for Steven Caulker.