Anthony Gordon transfer proposal has given Liverpool new contract problem to solve

The calendar flip from June to July brings with it the formal ending of Joel Matip's Liverpool career.

As one of the greatest free transfers of all time on Merseyside, Matip departs having won every top-level trophy available during his eight years as a Reds player.

Perhaps it was the naturally quiet nature of the man himself but Matip was always curiously overlooked outside of the Liverpool bubble, rarely having the garlands laid at his feet in the same way colleagues like Virgil van Dijk and even Ibrahima Konate had during their time with the Reds, but the outgoing centre-back leaves the club as a real cult hero among a worldwide fanbase.

In truth, though, Matip's Reds career ended long before the final day on his Liverpool contract on Sunday and his end-of-season departure, which was already widely anticipated, was formally confirmed on the morning of Jurgen Klopp's last pre-season match press conference back in mid-May.

Matip's most recent appearance was in early December when he suffered a heartbreaking ACL rupture that not only put paid to his season but effectively dashed any hopes of a new deal with the club having admitted a few months previous that he was happy and settled on Merseyside.

Klopp initially indicated he was hoping Matip would receive a new deal but having already told owners Fenway Sports Group of his decision to stand down at the end of the season, that would be a decision that was not remotely in his hands.

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"I'm at an age where I don't think so much about the future anymore," Matip said in September. "I try to make the most of every day and don't look too far ahead. If it was only these two clubs in the end, I would be perfectly happy. But in football, you never know exactly."

Sadly, as it turned out, Matip was painfully astute in his observation; the knee injury picked up in the 4-3 win over Fulham on December 3 seemed innocuous at the time but ruined his season and left the club with a decision to make over a new deal for a player who turns 33 a week before the new Premier League season begins and is still trying to gain fitness after such a damaging, even career-threatening setback.

In many ways, it feels fitting that Matip, Klopp's first senior signing as Liverpool boss, sees his time with the Reds come to a close at the same time as the manager who helped him become a Premier League and Champions League winner.

A new era is now getting ready to launch at Anfield with sporting director Richard Hughes a month into his role alongside head coach Arne Slot and the exit of Matip theoretically frees up a place in the squad for a new centre-back as a result.

Leny Yoro of Lille is someone who is wanted but Liverpool sources have stressed how they believe the 18-year-old is Real Madrid-bound, should the European champions decide to make their move this summer.

Lille are keen to sell the centre-back now for fear of missing out on a transfer fee next summer given his contract situation and the general stance is that Yoro interest is exclusive of any wider, more long-term strategy for the defensive department.

With Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konate both having turned 25 and 27 respectively in late May, Liverpool have two high-calibre centre-halves who are on the cusp of what might be termed 'peak years' for players in that position but Van Dijk's situation is increasingly intriguing.

The Liverpool captain is now into the final 12 months of his terms and will be 33 this month. His quality and status will mean the Reds will have no desire to lose him on a free next year but there has been little advancement publicly on a new contract, despite the captain's suggestions he would like to remain in situ.

Yoro would be a player who could be eased into proceedings over time but given his experience in Ligue 1, where he played over 30 times for the team who finished fourth last term, Liverpool will feel he could become a member of the senior squad immediately.

The Reds enjoy a good relationship with Yoro's Gestifute agency and have made it known they are poised if Madrid opt to look elsewhere this summer or try and bring him to the Spanish capital on a free transfer next year, but whether Matip is replaced, should the teenager move to Spain, remains a source of debate.

It would represent a major gamble to enter the season with just three senior centre-backs in Van Dijk, Konate and Gomez, despite the meteoric rise of Jarell Quansah the past year or so. Gomez played the majority of his games as a makeshift left-back last season and will continue deputising on an ad-hoc basis in the full-back roles going forward given his impressive versatility.

Given the injury concerns the Reds have had at centre-half for a number of years now, might Liverpool err on the side of caution with regards to the number of specialist centre-backs they want in the ranks this term? With this surely being the final days of Nat Phillips's time with the club, the decision not to bolster the department further is a real risk.

For now, Liverpool maintain a watching brief on developments around Yoro but will be confident they can offer a high-quality alternative to Real Madrid, particularly given Champions League football is back on the Anfield agenda this season.

Liverpool's point-blank refusal to enter Quansah into the discussions with Newcastle over Anthony Gordon last week was instructive. The club's hierarchy has been wowed by his development since the start of last season and that he ended it as Van Dijk's partner was proof of how much he has kicked on since a loan spell at Bristol Rovers in January of 2023.

The 21-year-old breakout campaign has taken him to the fringes of the England squad and Liverpool see him as a potential cornerstone of the team for the coming years if he continues this sort of trajectory. Discussions on a new contract are expected at some stage even if Van Dijk's own situation is more pressing just now.