Jürgen Klopp has revealed why a move for Joel Matip was already in his thinking long before Liverpool swooped to reach an agreement for the defender to join the club this summer.
It was confirmed on Monday that the Cameroon international will make a switch to the Reds after the conclusion of his current deal with Bundesliga side Schalke.
The 24-year-old has built up a wealth of experience since his senior debut in 2009 and represented his country at each of the past two World Cups.
Klopp observed Matip closely while in charge of Borussia Dortmund and was so impressed by the performances he witnessed, the German shortlisted him as a potential recruit for his next team during a sabbatical from the game before taking charge at Anfield.
The manager told Liverpoolfc.com: “I am very happy. Everybody who knows him would have been interested. Maybe he’s not the most famous player in England, but he’s 24 and has played about 200 Bundesliga games for Schalke.
“He is a top-class centre-half, very young but experienced. You don’t have that too often. To be honest, when I had my break I thought for the next club, I should think about Joel, if there was a need.
“He never played for my team, he did the extreme opposite – he played for their biggest opponent! Maybe that says a lot about his quality. Even when he played for the team you cannot love as Dortmund manager, you see his quality. Then that’s real quality.
“The chance was there and Joel wanted to do something different. He is and was really close to his club; it’s normal, he played there since he was a youth player. I think there was no chance for another Bundesliga club in this moment, but Liverpool was the right name and the right club.
“Maybe it was a little advantage that I know him and he knows me. He’s still a young player and for a young player, it could help to make the decision when there’s a manager from your home country.
“It’s a good situation, hopefully a win-win. In this moment, it looks like this. Now he has to stay healthy and after the summer break we can start working together.”
Klopp is confident Matip’s attributes are well-suited to the demands of the Barclays Premier League, and with room for further improvement for a player who has amassed 27 caps at international level.
He added: “He’s a real centre-half. He is physically strong, a really tall boy – taller than me! It doesn’t happen too often that I have to [looks upwards].
“He’s quick, he’s flexible in his movements and good in technical things. He has played in different systems, with four or three defenders. He scores goals, four or five per season minimum. He is good in the one-on-one and quick. It’s a package.
“He has to learn, that’s normal, but he has learned a lot in the last few years and made big steps in his development. For us, it was a chance. You can’t always make transfers only to solve a problem.
“I know people are saying our defence isn’t that good. We have to defend better as a team, first of all. It’s not for solving a problem – it’s a transfer with a really good perspective for the future, a long-term thing. But he can help immediately and that’s really good for us.”