It quickly became clear that Joël Matip is Liverpool's best centre back by some distance. The former Schalke 04 defender has been posting one unruffled performance after another to build a reputation as one of Liverpool's most composed players in years.
Matip has made an impression similar to Xabi Alonso in terms of the intelligence, awareness, and composure in his play. Jürgen Klopp expressed his confidence in what Matip could bring to his squad, but he pointed out that the player's qualities—not the prospect of saving money by picking up a Bosman transfer—compelled the club to bring in the Cameroon international.
“If I was surprised that would mean I had some negative expectations and it was not like this,” Klopp said. “From the first moment when we thought about him and we knew his situation, we knew his readiness to change club and come to Liverpool and all that stuff.
“We were convinced we would do it. We didn’t do it just because he didn’t cost a transfer fee. Not one second. That was only a nice plus. So that's all. We are not surprised. We thought it would work like this and that is why you make transfers.
“All the rest is about the boy. He is very cool. Really cool. He’s not the most talking person, I would say. That all helps. He is very confident. In his first few weeks he said: ‘I think I can help the team’ and all that stuff, that was confident. That’s good. That’s what you need. The rest you need is quality and the help of your team-mates.”
Cool, quiet, and confident. Liverpool might not have recorded many clean sheets in the Premier League this season but have a 25-year-old centre back that is among the very best in the league. Although rival teams have paid a lot more to bring centre backs in, there wouldn't be many complaints if Matip was brought in for Dejan Lovren money.
Matip and Lovren are building a promising partnership ahead of Loris Karius in goal and behind Jordan Henderson in midfield. The four have only played together for five of Liverpool's 12 league games so far this season and should improve with time. Of the four, though, Matip's calming influence is probably the hardest to replace.
After ten league games and two cup appearances, Matip has proven to be absolutely essential. No wonder he's as confident as Klopp says he is.