Article by Adam Brown @AdamMNVi
Joel Matip joined Liverpool on a free transfer in the summer of 2016. Three years on, the Cameroonian-German defender has helped Liverpool to their sixth Champions League trophy.
The defender would snub the African Cup of Nations in his debut season, choosing to focus on Liverpool’s league campaign; a sign that he fits in with the Liverpool culture; a club before country mentality when it comes to football – but importantly, selflessness which is a prerequisite for every Jurgen Klopp player.
The former Bundesliga star was called upon multiple times this season, taking important games in his stride. He stepped up against Napoli, breaking his collarbone in the process when challenging for a ball just before the final whistle. Against Spurs, Matip was flawless in Madrid with vital interceptions to relieve oncoming pressure while being able to keep calm in a game of the highest stakes.
Teams have naturally looked to target Liverpool’s right-side to avoid encounters with Virgil van Dijk, but it’s a strategy which has failed on countless occasions. Matip can hold his own; the Cameroonian won 67% of his tackles this season – 1.77 per game in the Premier League – more assured than Laporte’s 48% success rate.
When not strolling through defences with the ball, they were being dissected with intricate passes. Joel’s performance against Southampton away alone was worthy of a place in the PFA Premier League Team Of The Year.
It’s difficult to standout playing alongside players like Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, but Matip has done just that. What is most praiseworthy is the manner of how he’s conducted himself while producing solid performances on big nights against Bayern Munich and Barcelona. The former Schalke defender is unfazed by the big occasion, he lets his performances do the talking. A humble giant.
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Matip has reminded us all how valuable he was to the team when he first signed. The club went through a phase of defenders who lacked consistency before his arrival – those players who are ‘fine’ for four or five games before making a crucial defensive error.
The 27-year-old is an integral part of this Liverpool team and the perfect partner alongside van Dijk. Matip can lead, but he’s happy to be led too. It’s a trait which this Liverpool team is built on; the team comes first, the individual second. The Reds don’t need any more big personalities or leaders.
Henderson, Milner and Virgil lead by title, but when called upon, the whole team will step-up. A togetherness has been instilled at Anfield which isn’t matched by other clubs. Opposition players can’t impose themselves. Messi’s antics with Robertson were quickly quashed by Henderson, while Sokratis complaints towards Salah saw him chased down the tunnel.
Remember when Sokratis thought he was hard, tryna bully Salah then Van Dijk had him running to the away dressing room. Looool that’s their warrior!
— 🇨🇭 (@BallerShaqiri) March 7, 2019
Klopp’s team are a testament to the meaning of the ‘This is Anfield’ sign.
“This is to remind our lads who they’re playing for, and to remind the opposition who they’re playing against.”
Forget ideas of signing another centre-half like de Ligt. There’s no reason to unsettle a well-balanced squad which also includes a player of similar potential in Joe Gomez. Defensive depth at centre-half is now an issue of Liverpool’s past.
Get that new contract signed, Joel!
Article by @AdamMNVi – Adam Brown