Liverpool will be without their top three centre halves for at least Friday’s game against Exeter City in the FA Cup, and nobody is especially confident that any of Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, or Dejan Lovren will be fit in time for a difficult pair of matches against Arsenal and Manchester United immediately after.
Meanwhile, even if Kolo Toure’s hamstring was only cramping and he’s ready to go again, few will be banking on the veteran defender’s body standing up to playing two games a week at this stage in his career. Then there’s Joe Gomez, who is out for the year with an ACL injury. Top U21 defender Dan Clearly is currently out injured, too.
To call it an injury crisis would be an understatement. So it’s entirely unsurprising that rumour mongers far and wide are claiming Liverpool will now go all out to convince Schalke to part with centre half Joel Matip in the next week to ten days rather than signing the Cameroonian international to a pre-contract and waiting for the summer.
Liverpool’s interest in the 24-year-old, who can play both at centre half and as a defensive midfielder, has been confirmed by multiple journalists with ties to the club. All, though, have insisted from the start that Liverpool would prefer to wait for the summer to sign him on a free rather than paying Schalke to bring him in six months early.
For his part, Jürgen Klopp seemed to hint at a change in approach following Tuesday’s costly victory over Stoke City, admitting that the club could look to the transfer market to address the current spate of injuries. In that light, getting Matip—who the club appear to see as a long-term solution—in six months early would seem the logical option.
Of course, that would depend on Schalke being willing to deal. And not trying to extort Liverpool when it’s clear the Reds are desperate for help at the back. On that front, reports out of Germany continue to suggest Schalke are not looking to deal Matip early, perhaps even holding out hope he will eventually sign a new deal to stay on.
Liverpool need defensive reinforcements in, and quickly. Joel Matip seems by far the likeliest to arrive given his contract status and Liverpool’s confirmed interest. Anything more than that, though, is speculation—though at least it should be clear within the week whether there is anything more solid to the rumours.