Liverpool confirmed they had reached a pre-contract agreement to sign Joel Matip on a free transfer on this day in 2016.
If there’s one thing the transfer-hungry football hordes love more than a big-money signing, it’s a free transfer. Whether departing on a Bosman at the end of one’s contract, or a player’s existing deal being ripped up so they can move without a transfer fee, everybody loves a bargain.
Perhaps it is a result of the Football Manager generation’s own bargain-hunting in the virtual world, but there is a fascination with expiring contracts as supporters look to see which quality talents could soon become available on the transfer market without the need of a big-money fee.
A look at the current list of soon-to-be free agents and you will be greeted by the legendary names of Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Angel Di Maria. Meanwhile, there is also a whole host of international players Liverpool have been linked with in the past, however loosely, set to be out of contract in the summer including Milan Skriniar, Youri Tielemans, Wilfried Zaha, Marcus Thuram, N’Golo Kante, Konrad Laimer, Ilkay Gundogan, Adrien Rabiot, Marco Asensio, Caglar Soyuncu, Raphael Guerreiro, Houssem Aouar, Mahmoud Dahoud, Ben Brereton Diaz, Stefan de Vrij, Adama Traore, Marco Reus, and Dani Ceballos.
While the transfer window might currently be closed, the Reds would even be free to discuss pre-contract agreements with the non-domestic-based stars, with such practice permitted when a player enters the final six months of their deal. As a result, some of the aforementioned players are believed to already have their next moves lined up.
Yet while Liverpool have found themselves linked with the likes of Kante, for example, in recent weeks, and were credited with interest in Laimer only to reportedly be told he was off to Bayern Munich, any current talk of would-be Bosman transfers at Anfield is predominantly regarding outgoings.
Having waved off Emre Can, Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Gini Wijnaldum, Divock Origi and Loris Karius at the end of their contracts in recent years, Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are currently all poised to follow them out of the exit door. And while new contracts for the Brazilian and the Reds vice-captain seem plausible, the remaining pair look set to become the latest Bosman departures with a number of clubs continuing to be linked with their services as a result.
That doesn’t mean Liverpool won’t currently be looking at soon-to-be out-of-contract players themselves. But despite the speculation, and their seemingly-restricted finances, it would admittedly still be a surprise if the Reds snapped up a number of big-name free agents this summer.
After all, under Jurgen Klopp, when Liverpool move for an out-of-contract player, it tends to be either a back-up goalkeeper or a highly-talented youngster who would still command a compensation fee. The German has brought in seven such players since taking over at Anfield in October 2015, with Alex Manninger, Adrian and Andy Lonergan ticking the former box and Dominic Solanke, Harvey Elliott and Fabio Carvalho all fulfilling the latter.
As a result, Joel Matip remains the only big-name Bosman transfer completed under Klopp’s watch, with the Reds confirming they had signed a pre-contract agreement with the defender on this day in 2016. A big admirer of the Cameroonian during his time at Borussia Dortmund, but unable to ever move for him given he played for bitter-rivals Schalke, the German was delighted to get his man.
“He’s 24 years old, has played over 200 Bundesliga games, played Champions League, played Europa League, won the German Cup in 2011,” Klopp said as he rattled through the reasons why the club signed Matip. “He’s a big talent who has made big steps in his development in the last few years.
“He’s become a real experienced centre-half. He’s tall, 1.98m, but flexible and quick. As flexible and quick as a player who is 1.98m can be. He’s a perfect header of the ball, makes four or five goals a season and is good in the build-up.
“He was an easy choice. I know in England it’s very difficult to bring a player without paying a transfer fee, but I thought that was not a reason not to take him – just because we couldn’t write a big number behind his name.
“Ask other clubs in Germany what they would have paid to get him if he still had a contract and use that number.”
Klopp continued: “He’s a high-quality centre-half. You cannot play at a club like Schalke now since six years always in the starting line-up without having big, big quality.
“For sure, a lot of clubs were interested, but for him it’s good because he knows I know him so it’s not a coincidence. He will not come here and find a manager who he has to show special things. He has to work, he has to improve, but it’s a real good base and he can be a really good centre-half in the Premier League.
“In Germany, when a player of his quality is out of contract, it’s a real run (to sign him). Schalke is maybe not a famous club in England, but it’s a big club in Germany. The last few years they’ve played Champions League and they made big offers to keep this player, for sure.
“In Germany, there’s maybe only three or four clubs who can get Matip when he’s at Schalke. [Borussia] Dortmund? Not possible (due to their rivalry). Bayern of course, or maybe (Bayer) Leverkusen, or Wolfsburg.
“The rest? No chance. Then you start thinking about other countries, and that’s what he wants to do. We were early enough. Watch him on YouTube!”
Given the success of Matip, and Liverpool’s previous high-profile Bosman signing before him in James Milner, perhaps it is a surprise that the Reds haven’t made such moves more frequently. Yet, as Klopp would say himself back the:, “In England it’s very difficult to bring a player without paying a transfer fee.” Clearly the signing-on fees, clauses and weekly wage demands when negotiating without a transfer fee are often that little bit too excessive.
Meanwhile, Liverpool admittedly have a patchy record when it comes to Bosmans. For every Milner and Matip, there is Milan Jovanovic and Joe Cole. For every Markus Babbel and Gary McAllister, there is Philipp Degen and Andriy Voronin.
In the case of Matip, Klopp saw no reason not to move for him. But with the Cameroonian remaining the last Bosman Liverpool brought in for their starting XI, clearly that hasn’t often been the case despite frequent speculation.
While the Reds might be linked with a number of free agents in the weeks and months ahead, it will have to be a special player indeed if Liverpool were to actually initiate what is becoming an increasingly-rare transfer at Anfield.