With talks of Joel Matip possibly receiving an offer to extend his stay at Liverpool Football Club, we take a look at if he is truly deserving of this extension or if his time with the club should be winding down.
Managing football clubs at the highest level is one of the most difficult things to do in sports. The amount of mega egos you have to be able to deal with is a headache on its own, without even getting into the day-to-day tactics and on-field product.
One aspect of keeping a club like Liverpool humming along at the top of the game is to understand that roster makeups are cyclical. You will not be able to run out the same starting XI for 10 years straight. That is not feasible.
Players grow and mesh together as they buy-in to whatever the manager is selling. From there, their chemistry on the pitch would theoretically trend upwards. If not, changes will be made. But, when a group of players experience multiple title battles together like this group has, they enter into a sphere of footballers that most teams don’t reach.
Joel Matip joined Liverpool in July 2016 on a free transfer from German giants Schalke. In that time, he has been a terrific servant to the club and has far exceeded any expectations that were had of him when he came to Anfield.
He was brought in to stem a seeping tide that was the Reds defense. While scoring goals was not a problem, the defensive unit was seen as a weakness to holding the team back. Matip was brought in as a key piece in this change.
During his 7 year run with Liverpool, the former Cameroon international has made 187 appearances in all competitions. He has been hampered by injuries on multiple occasions. While this has been frustrating at times, when healthy, he would prove formidable as he formed a strong center-half pairing with the indomitable Virgil Van Dijk.
Their paring in the heart of the Liverpool defense would prove to be crucial as the Reds finally took the next step. Silverware became a regular occurrence on Merseyside as Jurgen Klopp saw his group of players take things to the next level.
Matip became a fan favorite for his marauding runs forward as he carried the ball from the halfway line all the way to the opposing penalty box. While this would leave him out of position on occasion, it was the sort of vigor and thrust this Liverpool side had become known for.
However, as his injury list has piled up, and with the arrival of Ibrahima Konate, Matip has seen his chances to play consistently greatly reduced. As a result, the 31 year old is entering the final year of his contract without a lot of momentum.
Talks have surfaced of the club wanting to offer him an extension to stay on. The only way I can see this making sense is if he takes a pay cut and is comfortable working as a rotational piece and no longer a regular starter.
It’s clear Konate has passed him by in the pecking order. Going back to teams being cyclical, Liverpool have been revamping things in the last few years as Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner, Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita have all left the club.
These changes, while admittedly painful for some, are a necessity to keep the club at the top of the food chain. In recent years, lack of match sharpness has seen Matip caught out more often then Liverpool fans have become accustomed to.
The club have proven they are very loyal to this group of players that brought a winning culture back to the facility as many of the stars have received extensions at some point or another. However, I do believe that going in a different direction behind Van Dijk-Konate is a good plan.
A young talented defender with both longevity and potential on his side would be my preference to retaining Matip. If he does stay, his big-match experience could be invaluable, especially during the week as the club tries to integrate more youth into the side.
The bottom line is this, if the club wants to give Matip an extension, that is fine. However, that cannot be the only bit of defensive business they do this summer. Matip could very well thrive if he were to return to Germany for a smaller club or possibly even Turkey.
Either way, if he stays or goes, while an extension is no guarantee, the respect of the club and its fans should be set in stone.