Joel Matip explains his decision to turn down the opportunity to play in the 31st edition of the African Cup of Nations.
Since signing for Liverpool on a free transfer from Schalke, Joel Matip has quickly become one of the most important players at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal. His strength and composure on the ball are traits that make him one of the best defenders in the Premier League.
Being African, there were concerns that Matip would leave the club in January to join his national team for the African Cup of Nations being hosted in Gabon next year. These fears were quickly dismissed as the defender made clear his decision to remain with Liverpool and continue his self-imposed exile from playing for Cameroon.
“It’s not an easy decision but I want to concentrate on Liverpool. I want to be [here],” he told Liverpoolfc.com.
“I want to focus on Liverpool and that’s what I had to decide. I think I took the right decision.”
Many Liverpool fans support Matip in his decision and are relieved to know that he will be at the club during January. As shown by Liverpool’s only Premier League defeats this season, against Burnley and Bournemouth, Matip is highly important to the club’s defence and when he is missing, the Reds’ defence struggles to cope.
While Matip will remain on Merseyside next month, Sadio Mane will join Senegal’s national team squad for the AFCON and Liverpool will need to cope without the speedy winger’s influence in order to get through what will be a very busy month.
Liverpool are third on the league table after a loss and a draw in their last two league games and Chelsea top the league while Arsenal occupy second place. Those who had previously tipped Liverpool for a title challenge are quickly retracting their statements, but despite the meltdown regarding Liverpool’s season, there really isn’t anything to be worried about. If you had told me at the beginning of the season we’d be third after 15 games, I’d have taken that without second questioning it.
Heading into this season, Liverpool’s target was to qualify for next season’s Champions League and the Reds are currently on target to achieve that. With a New Year’s Eve game against Manchester City, Liverpool will be looking to reinforce their reputation with another win over a top six team.