Why Barcelona centre back would be a perfect fit for Liverpool
Most would agree that recouping £5m for Martin Skrtel was excellent business by Liverpool. It was a big sum for a 31-year-old, he was showing signs of decline – some never rated him – and he wasn’t considered integral by Jurgen Klopp, starting just four games after Christmas.
However, with Kolo Toure leaving earlier this summer, it does leave the Reds light on veteran centre backs, with their current options Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Tiago Ilori all aged 27 or younger.
You may think that is irrelevant, with Lovren, Sakho and Matip experienced despite being a youthful 27, 26 and 24 respectively, but it can’t be coincidental that all seven Premier League winners this decade possessed at least one central defender in their 30s, with most having two in their squad.
It was Wes Morgan and Robert Huth for Leicester last term, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic for Chelsea in 2014-15, Martin Demichelis and Joleon Lescott for Manchester City in 2013-14, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand for Manchester United in 2012-13, Toure for City in 2011-12, Ferdinand, John O’Shea and Wes Brown for United in 2010-11 and Ricardo Carvalho for the Blues in 2009-10.
Those guys weren’t merely talismanic figures, with the majority required to make a significant on-pitch contribution, and Liverpool don’t presently have anyone to perform the same role in their 8/1-valued title bid.
There are reports though that Klopp is still planning further rearguard reinforcement owing to the recent departures and the fact that Sakho, Gomez and Ilori will miss the start of the season, and the man that he is rumoured to be considering would be an ideal addition: Jeremy Mathieu.
At 32, he is battle-hardened without being past it, he is expected to cost a similar amount to that which the Merseysiders received for Skrtel and he played in over half of Barcelona’s La Liga matches in the last two campaigns as they won the title twice.
The bonus is that the Frenchman is as adept at left back as he is in the middle, and that is seen as a problem position with doubts over Alberto Moreno’s defensive abilities, Jon Flanagan at his best on the right and Joe Gomez potentially being required in the centre.
Mathieu is seemingly leaving Camp Nou due to the arrival of Samuel Umtiti, but the 22-year-old only made it to Euro 2016, where he ended up starting the final, because injury forced the former to withdraw, so Didier Deschamps rated him more highly.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.