Liverpool already have their ideal Joel Matip replacement at the club. They’ve got to resist some temptation this summer, though.
Joel Matip will need a replacement one day. He’s not immortal, after all, and he’ll wind down over the next few years.
Matip turns 30 this summer. That’s not always a big problem for centre-backs but it does mean they’re entering their twilight years. However, it can mean more of a problem to some.
Matip is one of those who may start to struggle quite badly – some would argue he already is. Injuries appear to be more frequent with him, resulting in his latest.
He’s not just a 30-year-old player coming off a serious injury but someone who was already battling injury after injury. The 19/20 season was good example of that.
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Matip started as first-choice and was absolutely brilliant. Then an injury in September ruled him out for months. He’d return at the start of the year, only for another injury to occur.
The defender returned after Project Restart to face Everton on the first game back. Only, he left early with an injury and that was the end of his season.
Those problems carried over into this campaign. The result was a campaign with just nine Premier League starts at a time when Liverpool desperately needed him fit.
All in all, Matip has played 19 Premier League games in two seasons. That stretches to 41 over the last three – a worrying number.
We’re not saying Liverpool must replace Matip right away. He’s too good for that and comfortably deserves his place next season. But they’ll know the time may come very soon, if his body doesn’t start holding up.
And with that in mind, we think they’ve already got his replacement.
The Joel Matip replacement
Nat Phillips is the best replacement for Matip that Liverpool could find. He knows the club inside and out, is still only 24 and has already proven he’s good enough.
In fact, we imagine he could get even better when alongside the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. And Matip, for that matter.
So if Matip did have to step aside over the next year or two, Phillips is perfect to step up. Ibrahima Konate’s arrival means there’s no great need for a very, very young defender – the Frenchman has that covered. Phillips, at 24, would be ready to move into his prime as a solid part of Liverpool’s defensive options.
But Liverpool must be careful. There will be some temptation to sell Phillips this summer, given they don’t really need a fifth-choice defender.
His stock is high, too, and there will be offers. ESPN say Liverpool are open to them.
We think a loan – at best – is the right option. Make sure Phillips is around in a year, just in case the squad needs that Matip replacement. Because if they do, Liverpool will be very grateful to have Phillips.