Powerful, versatile and strong in the tackle, Joel Matip has all the tools necessary for a successful modern-day defender. Indeed, and handily for FC Schalke 04, that versatility extends to the ability to also slot smoothly into a holding midfield berth as required.

Born in Bochum to a Cameroonian father and German mother, Matip got his first taste of football with local side SC Weitmar 45 before he had even started school. VfL Bochum, playing in the Bundesliga at the time, were the next stepping stone to the dream move to Ruhr district giants FC Schalke 04 in 2000, at the tender age of nine.

Swift development


After making excellent progress in the club's youth ranks, Matip was handed his Bundesliga debut as an 18-year-old against FC Bayern Munich in November 2009, marking the occasion in sensational fashion with the goal that salvaged a 1-1 draw. The rangy defensive prospect soon established himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet, going on to play more minutes than any other member of Schalke's back line during the 2011/12 campaign.

Since then he has gone from strength to strength and by 2013/14 had established his credentials as Schalke's undisputed back-row coordinator, whether in combination with Felipe Santana or Benedikt Höwedes at the heart of the defence. On the wider stage, the question of who to turn out for at international level was resolved in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup finals, when he plumped for Cameroon. Four years later, Matip was heading to Brazil with the Indomitable Lions for his second tilt at the trophy.

For club and country alike, the cultured, ball-playing all-rounder noted for his efficient passing and exceptional match intelligence is an undeniable asset.