Last season, some fans and pundits were quick to write off Roberto Firmino when an early injury led to fitness issues and a slow start to life at Liverpool. In the same way, a pre-season injury to Joël Matip meant that some to underestimated just how talented a player the club had brought in.
Unlike Firmino, though, Matip has a manager who clearly rates him, and the defender has been given a platform to impress again now that he’s fit. He’s done that, looking strong in each of his starts, especially against Chelsea. For his part, Jürgen Klopp says it’s nothing less than what he expected.
“It wasn’t the most easy start,” began the Liverpool manager when asked about his new imposing centre half. “He had his surgery and it was not without complications, an infection, and so he just needed some time. Tall players like him, big players, need that physical fitness.”
If Matip had had three years left on his contract, at his age and given his talent, it he would have fetched £25-30M in the current transfer market. Yet he arrived on a free transfer from Schalke, who had failed to agree a new deal with the German-born Cameroonian international.
That along with starting the season on the injured list worked against Matip, at least in the eyes of some. It’s similar to the way some people are underestimating the ability of goalkeeper Loris Karius because Liverpool exploited a release clause to capture him for well below market value.
“If you lived or worked in Germany, you would have known about him much more,” Klopp added, insisting that in the end it is quality that counts most. “It was clear it made sense to sign him. He maybe needed to work on his fitness a bit but there was never a doubt about his quality.