Liverpool monitoring Schalke's Joël Matip as Klopp targets defensive reinforcements

Liverpool FC are keeping on tabs on Schalke centre-back Joël Matip who could be available to sign on a free transfer, even though any deal wouldn't see him move to Merseyside until the summer.

The 24-year-old is a regular in the Bundesliga outfit's back-line but his contract at the Veltins Arena runs out in the summer, leaving him free to agree pre-contract terms with other clubs from January 1.

The Cameroon international hasn't missed a minute of league action for Schalke this season and has attracted interest from various European and English clubs, but Jürgen Klopp remains confident of sealing a deal for the defender.

As Borussia Dortmund manager, Klopp came up against Matip numerous times and is known to be an admirer of the player, who has scored 21 goals in 232 appearances in all competitions for the Royal Blues.

The 6ft 4ins centre-half, who can also play in defensive midfield, is seen as a long-term replacement for Kolo Touré, who is nearing retirement and could leave on a free in the summer after signing a one-year extension to his existing deal back in May.

Klopp eyeing first signings as Liverpool boss

Matip could become Klopp's second signing of his Anfield tenure, with a five-year deal expected to be wrapped up for young Serbian midfielder Marko Grujić in the coming days.

The 19-year-old, a youth product of Red Star Belgrade who has gone on to become the stand-out star of the side who currently sit top of the table unbeaten after 22 games, is set to seal a £5 million move to Merseyside by putting pen-to-paper later this week.

He will fly over to complete a medical with the club before returning to his homeland to see out the rest of the season on loan at Red Star, in order to achieve his goal of helping them reach the UEFA Champions League, before returning to England at the end of the campaign. 

Though there isn't expected to be many transfer deals completed in January, with Klopp keen to use the squad at his current disposal to gauge the quality available to him, the German is also clearly building for the future. 

Matip would provide competition for the Reds' current centre-backs Mamadou Sakho, Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel - the latter of whom is awaiting scan results on a hamstring injury suffered in the loss to Watford at the weekend. Despite some rumours that the injury could see him out on the sidelines for three months, the fears are that the Slovakian will be out for two weeks - meaning he will miss most of the Reds' packed Christmas fixture schedule.

However, Schalke have put a four-year contract on the table for Matip - who will meet with Schalke's managing director Horst Heldt in January to discuss his future.