Football: Liverpool prise Cameroon central defender Joel Matip away from Schalke

Schalke's Joel Matip in action during a German Bundesliga match in Germany in 2012.
Schalke's Joel Matip in action during a German Bundesliga match in Germany in 2012.PHOTO: EPA

BERLIN (AFP) - Liverpool have won their struggle to sign giant Cameroon central defender Joel Matip from Schalke 04 on a free transfer at the end of the season, the Bundesliga outfit confirmed on Monday.

The 24-year-old has made 239 appearances for Schalke since his debut at 18 in November 2009, but sporting director Horst Heldt admitted the club had lost their battle to persuade Matip to stay in Gelsenkirchen.

"We have held extensive discussions with both the player and his agent since May. It became clear very quickly that certain decisive factors meant we would not be able to influence his decision," Horst told the club website.

Liverpool also announced the arrival of the German-born star who can operate as a midfielder and as centre back who is thought to have signed a four-year deal.

"Liverpool Football Club can confirm they have reached an agreement to sign Cameroon defender Joel Matip," a statement on the club's website said.

The player himself said it was a logical career move.

"I never considered a move to another Bundesliga club. Even though the decision wasn't easy, I am certain that this is the right moment for me to take the next step in my career," Matip explained.

He also promised to continue to give his all for the fifth-placed Bundesliga club, who are just two points off third place.

"I have always been very proud to play for this fantastic club and I will give my all in the coming months to ensure that we get the most we can out of this season. I owe that to both the fans and my team," he said.

Matip, who stands at 1.95m tall, has been capped 27 times by Cameroon and played at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

Liverpool's interest in Matip has been known since January and the move will see him follow Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic - Jurgen Klopp's first signing as Reds manager - in joining the Merseyside outfit.

Grujic, recruited in January, immediately returned to former club Red Star Belgrade on loan for the remainder of the season.