Joel Matip has confirmed that he opted out of the AFCON after being called up by Cameroon, in order to focus on Liverpool push for the title

The 25-year-old was reported to be considering ending his self-imposed international exile at the African Cup of Nations this year after holding talks with Cameroon manager Hugo Broos. Matip has not played for the Cameroon national team since 2015, and has now confirmed that he turned down a call-up to focus on Liverpool :

“It’s not an easy decision but I want to concentrate on Liverpool. I want to be [here],” he said, according to the club’s official website.

“I want to focus on Liverpool and that’s what I had to decide. I think I took the right decision.”

Jurgen Klopp was understandably happy about the decision, saying he had already discussed the matter with Matip weeks ago :

“We actually had this talk a few weeks ago already, so I was not surprised [by the news].” he told the club’s official website

“Of course, I am happy about this, there is no doubt, but the players make these decisions by themselves – there is nothing the club can do.”

Matip has been imperious at the heart of the Reds’ defence this season, and was hugely missed as Liverpool collapsed against Bournemouth to squander a 3-1 lead and lose 4-3. Matip’s continued presence in the side will be a huge boost for Liverpool, as they look to keep up their assault on the Premier League title.

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp (R) shakes hands with Liverpool's German-born Cameroonian defender Joel Matip (L) at the end of the English Premier League football match between Swansea City and Liverpool at The Liberty Stadium in Swansea, south Wales on October 1, 2016. / AFP / GEOFF CADDICK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)

Set to stay central to Liverpool’s succcess : Centre Back Joel Matip has provided Jurgen Klopp with a big boost. Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images

The former Schalke defender, who joined on a free transfer in the summer, has added composure to Liverpool’s backline and he has yet to lose a single game in a Liverpool shirt. Matip has easily been the Reds’ best defender, and one of their stand-out performers despite having the least glamorous job in a team filled with flair.

In his 13 games across all competitions this season, Matip has made an average of 1.4 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game. However, the defender has a hugely impressive rate of 5.1 clearances per game, and has excelled at breaking down attacks – especially when teams look to hit Liverpool on the counter by utilising long balls.

His huge 6″5 frame also means that he is invaluable when defending set pieces.

It is no coincidence that Liverpool have looked much more unstable when he is absent, with Lucas being forced into an unfamiliar role in central defence. Liverpool fans should be glad, then, that Matip has priorities their club over his country, and there is no doubt this move will endear him even more to Reds fans.