The meteoric rise of Virgil Van Dijk is without doubt well documented and repeatedly emphasised by mainstream football media. Dozens of articles on how he’s ‘transformed’ Liverpool’s defence, won them a UCL and become the world’s best defender. Yes we get it, he’s world class.
Joel Matip has been in the shadow of the Dutch international’s stupendous two seasons at Anfield. That doesn’t mean he has been bad or underwhelming. In fact it’s quite the opposite, he’s underrated.
The Cameroonian’s Liverpool career started as a roller coaster. Some impressive highs at the beginning, but then inconsistency, injury and some disappointing performances in the middle. He has taken some stick in his time in Merseyside but being Dejan Lovren’s partner doesn’t exactly do any favours…
Since his return from injury in 2019, the 6ft 5 defender has been a reliable partner for Van Dijk. Matip played an important role in the Reds’ Champions League triumph last season, yet it’s no surprise the colossus on his left hand side took most of the plaudits . 2019/20 has only seen the former Schalke man carry through the end of last season’s form, with Jurgen Klopp heaping praise on his defender:
“In a world of big transfer fees, to sign a player like Joel Matip on a free transfer is incredible. It was maybe one of the best pieces of business we did in the last few years.”Klopp on Matip
People argue that the quality of VVD makes Matip look better than he actually is. But you only have to look at how he’s keeping arguably one of England’s best defenders in Joe Gomez out of Klopp’s starting eleven. Moreover, the stats speak for themselves. He’s been better than the 2018/19 UEFA Player of the Year in the Premier League so far this season.
Virgil Van Dijk 2019/20 : 0.7 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game
Joel Matip 2019/20: 1.8 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per game
This is not a dig at Van Dijk or discrediting his quality. It’s only emphasising how underrated his defensive partner has been for the last season and half.
Perhaps why people don’t give Matip the credit he deserves is because he can be clumsy on the ball. Unlike Van Dijk who is a Rolls Royce of a centre back, the Cameroon international can sometimes be a bit erratic and not as pleasant on the eye. But in reality, he’s more important to this Liverpool back line than people think. Oh and just a reminder, he came on a free transfer. Outstanding business.
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