Joel Matip

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Klopp tabs Matip as ‘one of the best pieces of business’ for Liverpool

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On Friday, in Liverpool’s run-up to a Premier League battle with Sheffield United, Jurgen Klopp labeled Joel Matip as “one of the best pieces of business we did in the last few years.”

He’s not wrong.

“In a world of big transfer fees, to sign a player like Joel Matip on a free transfer is incredible,” Klopp said. Again, he’s not wrong.

The 28-year-old signed on a free from German side Schalke back in the summer of 2016, and he has become a fixture of the Liverpool defense, standing strong next to Virgil Van Dijk as part of one of the best back lines in Europe.

It essentially happened by accident. Matip, signed as nothing more than defensive cover for a squad that included Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Joe Gomez, and Ragnar Klavan. Yet he started 27 matches that season, forging a partnership with Lovren with Sakho on his way out, Gomez still too young for a consistent role, and Klavan down the depth chart. The next season van Dijk was brought in and yet Matip pushed through hamstring and ankle injuries to make 22 starts. Last season, en route to a vicious title challenge and a Champions League crown, Matip again was not meant to start, but with Lovren and Gomez both injured, Matip formed a critical partnership with van Dijk and has led by example.

So who else has come from relative obscurity on a savvy bit of business to take a starring role? Here are the five best bits of business in the Premier League currently playing for the club that snagged them, outside of Klopp’s prized center-back of course.

5) Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City (Leeds United, $2 million)

Goalkeepers never draw the same massive transfer fees as their outfield counterparts, but even so, the Leicester City shot-stopper has been a true man of the badge since joining in 2011, making 341 appearances for the Foxes and proving a key cog in the legendary run to the title a few years back. That team was full of great value players (more on that in a bit), and while they cashed in on some, the son of the legendary Manchester United goalkeeper stuck around the club he loves.

4) Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur (MK Dons, $6 million)

As just a teenager, Alli was sent to Spurs in the winter of early 2015 and immediately loaned back to MK Dons for the rest of the season. Immediately, they had to know their mistake. Alli was selected as the Football League Young Player of the Year in April, and his career skyrocketed from there. Providing both a physical presence and free-flowing nature on the ball, Alli has proven a versatile option in midfield for Spurs, and while he struggles to maintain consistent form, his best is both fearsome and artistic. Still just 23 years old, it seems the best may be yet to come for the England midfielder who has already racked up 187 appearances for the London club.

3) Andy Robertson, Liverpool (Hull City, $10 million)

Sure, Joel Matip came for free, but he still might not be the best bit of business on the club. Andy Robertson, Liverpool’s stellar left-back, signed for $10 million and looks to be the makings of a downright star. At 25 years old, he also looks set to be a Red for quite some time, giving the club incredible value for its money. $10 million in today’s market doesn’t net teams what it used to, making it all the more impressive the Reds could snag a player of his promise for such a price. Along with Trent Alexander-Arnold on the other side, the Reds appear set for a long time with one of Europe’s best back lines.

2) Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea (Marseille, $9 million)

The Blues are known for splashing the cash, but the then-23-year-old Spaniard came over from Ligue 1 in the summer of 2012 to little fanfare. He has gone on to make 345 appearances for Chelsea, serving as captain for many and proving a versatile and consistent option along the defense. Perhaps the most stunning part of Azpilicueta’s career is that he only has 25 caps for Spain, a shockingly low number for such a valuable player at one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Still, his service to Chelsea has been a far cry from his measly up-front cost.

1) Jamie Vardy, Leicester City (Fleetwood Town, $1.5 million)

Much has been made of Vardy’s story, having come from the semi-professional ranks and risen up to a Premier League title. For what he’s given Leicester City – 277 appearances and 110 goals, including 83 Premier League strikes in 182 appearances – the fee is next to nothing. Not many could have predicted what Vardy would provide, or that he’d become a regular for the England national team before the rise of Harry Kane, but now the tale has been written. Vardy will go down as one of the most undervalued transfers in Premier League history, deservedly so.

Manchester City wins Community Shield

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It took penalty kicks to separate Liverpool and Manchester City in a wasteful but entertaining Community Shield on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.

Claudio Bravo‘s second round stop of Georginio Wijnaldum met perfect finishing from the reigning domestic treble champions after a 1-1 score line over 90 minutes.

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The Reds were dominant in the second half, but only found one goal before penalties.

Sterling tucked a delightful David Silva flick under Alisson Becker in the first half, but Joel Matip nodded a late equalizer past Bravo in the second half.

Leroy Sane limped off after just 11 minutes with an injury which could jeopardize a nine-figure deal to Bayern Munich.

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Sane lashed into the side netting after Raheem Sterling picked the pocket of an unaware Joe Gomez in the fourth minute.

At the other end, Roberto Firmino juggled to set up a left-footed lash right to Claudio Bravo.

The Reds probably should’ve been up when Firmino slipped Mohamed Salah into the box, but the Egyptian couldn’t turn his shot near the goal.

Sterling could, however, side-footing a flick from David Silva under Alisson Becker, who would’ve liked to have done better.

Salah looked for a quick response, cooking Oleksandr Zinchenko on the right before missing the near post again.

Kevin De Bruyne was also very much in preseason form in terms of finishing, and his scuffed shot turned into a Sterling chance which Alisson did well to save.

Sterling then beat the Liverpool line and Alisson only to hit the far post in the 48th minute.

The Reds were all over City in the early second half, and Liverpool fans were hoping the Goal Decision System would tell them Virgil Van Dijk leveled off a corner kick to no avail.

Salah then hit the post after Sterling partially blocked a Trent Alexander-Arnold free kick.

Sterling should’ve made it 2-0 again, but the relatively wasteful forward dribbled directly into Alisson.

If Salah, Sterling, and De Bruyne were in peak finishing form, this could’ve easily been a 4-3 match, with the last name scuffing a low shot to Alisson in the 73rd.

Van Dijk kept a rally alive to set up Matip for a headed equalizer in the final 15 minutes.

Bravo made a fine save on Naby Keita in the 83rd minute.

Salah’s umpteenth chance of the game could’ve decided it in stoppage time, but Walker made an incredible goal line clearance and the ensuing corner was poorly served above the fray.

Liverpool defender Gomez may require surgery

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Liverpool fans expected the return of Joe Gomez to ease their thin defensive back line, but that may be put on hold.

After Gomez fractured his leg against Burnley, Gomez was expected to be back out on the field in six weeks’ time. But two months after the injury, there is only bad news.

With the 21-year-old still not back on the field, Klopp was asked directly if his defender required surgery to fix the problem. “I don’t know,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League match against West Ham on Monday. “We will see. It is possible, probably. It is not exactly going how we want, that’s how it is. He needs more time. We will see exactly how we do it.”

While Klopp’s assessment of his defender’s health was somewhat vague, he made it clear the recovery process has not gone according to plan. “There were different moments when we thought we could do this or that. It will take time. We can not say more,” Klopp said.

The inability for Gomez to return to the pitch has presented Liverpool with yet another problem along its back line, one of many. Dejan Lovren may miss the West Ham match with a setback regarding a hamstring injury that has kept him out since early January. Trent Alexander-Arnold has missed the last two matches with a knee injury and the club confirmed he will not return to training until next week. Virgil Van Dijk has played every single minute of the Premier League season but is suspended for the next Champions League match due to yellow card accumulation.

The injuries have forced reserve defender Joel Matip into action alongside van Dijk over the last two games, and the Reds have conceded four goals to Crystal Palace and Leicester City in that span. Jordan Henderson was forced to play right-back in the 1-1 draw against Leicester City, but James Milner will be back from his yellow card suspension to take over in that role.

Already-thin Liverpool center back corps loses Matip to quad injury

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Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund featured an injury to a position with very little depth.

The Reds lost Joel Matip to what Jurgen Klopp said could possibly be a “small tear” in one of his quads.

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If Matip, 26, needs any significant time to heal up, he’ll put a major question mark into Liverpool’s opening day center back pairing.

Virgil Van Dijk, who scored against BVB on Sunday, already won’t have Dejan Lovren as a partner thanks to a post-World Cup vacation.

That leaves Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan as options next to Van Dijk.

Matches at Crystal Palace and home to Brighton and Hove Albion follow the Aug. 12 visit from West Ham.

Joel Matip’s season likely over due to injury

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Joel Matip’s season looks likely to be over after he suffered a thigh injury in Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

The center back, 26, played alongside Virgil Van Dijk in the win but ahead of Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg with Manchester City at Anfield on Wednesday, the club have confirmed Matip’s injury is likely to require surgery.

In his second season with Liverpool after arriving from Schalke on a free transfer, Matip has been an important part of an improved Reds defense but since van Dijk arrived in January for a club record $100 million the Cameroon international has found himself splitting minutes with Dejan Lovren.

Here are more details from Liverpool’s website on Matip’s injury.

“Matip was able to complete the full 90 minutes of the fixture, but afterwards medical assessment on the thigh revealed surgery is expected to be required to correct the problem. The operation is likely to end the 26-year-old’s involvement in the remainder of the 2017-18 season.”

This is a blow for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool, especially after losing Joe Gomez through injury over the international break, but now it is time for Lovren to step up and prove his doubters wrong.

There has been signs of promise about Lovren and VVD playing together and now we will find out just how good they are as a partnership as they will likely play all of Liverpool’s remaining eight games (and possibly more if they get past City in the Champions League) of the season together at center back.

VVD is the main man at Liverpool and now Lovren must find his best form as he has started ahead of Matip in big games in recent months but has struggled at times as he was at fault during Liverpool’s defeat at Manchester United last month.