For many years, Premier League fans and especially Liverpool fans have had one key word in their repertoire – value. Value for players. Value for money getting into the stadium. Value for the emotional cost of supporting a team up and down the country, spending thousands per year to do so.
Value extends on the pitch, too. For too long it has felt like English football has suffered from the same mistake that Italian football made when it was the financial leader of the world – lack of value. Teams paying a £5m player for £15m just to say they got a ‘big name’ at a big price. Italian football lost a lot of its soul and its style due to this kind of hubris, and English fans have worried their own clubs have been making this mistake for too long.
Liverpool fans especially must have felt that way – countless millions wasted on clowns, people who were never suited to the club and a lack of willingness to invest properly. Instead of going for an established, expensive player who would be useful, the club instead would spend expensive sums on mid-tier players without the required pay packet.
Joel Matip, though, might just be the tipping point and the example that Liverpool needed to get themselves back on track as a club that does good business. The big Cameroon international has come to Merseyside and settled in immediately, recovering from a foot injury in pre-season to come into the side and be a commanding yet calming presence all at once.
His style, his commitment on the pitch, the stunning runs through the pitch and the accuracy on the ball all point to a defender who feels comfortable in the team. He is, at present, the bargain of the summer – and proof that free transfers aren’t always duds.
A New Kind of Value
Whilst Reds are more used to Philipp Degen and Milan Jovanovic as the quality of a free transfer, Matip breaks the mould and offers a glimpse of something better.
If you were to try and buy Matip in this kind of form, former club FC Schalke 04 could have named their price. However, Klopp bided his time and worked his magic to get the big Bochum-born defender to sign up on a free.
Unbeaten in the 9 games played so far with Matip on the pitch, Liverpool have conceded a mere 9 in that time – only Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs have stronger records at the back than Liverpool this year. For all the talk of defence perhaps letting them down as the season goes on, this is not the ticking time bomb of 13/14.