One of the most pleasant surprises of the past year has been the development of Joël Matip into a world class defender. Someone who was once seen as second or even third tier in partnership with Virgil Van Dijk, has quietly asserted himself as the center back of choice to pair up with Van Dijk. Friday it was announced that Matip had signed a new long term contract, keeping him in Merseyside for a while longer.
Jurgen Klopp brought the defender to the Reds in 2016 from FC Schalke 04 on a free transfer and has been part of his transformation into the dependable defender we know today.
“Joel’s journey at Liverpool is one I love and I am absolutely delighted he has shown his commitment to us by signing this new long-term contract,” Klopp told the club website following the announcement.
“As the team has evolved and become better, so too has Joel.
“I said earlier this year that signing a player of his quality is one of the best, incredible pieces of business we’ve done since I started here – and I think now that’s something everyone can see.
“I knew what he was capable of from seeing him up close in the Bundesliga and we were certain he could bring that performance level to us.
“Of course, it is not easy for any player coming to the Premier League, let alone coming to a club the size of Liverpool, so maybe in the beginning there were some questions externally about his consistency. But not anymore.”
The Premier League is notoriously difficult to adjust to, with its high level of physicality and intense pressing that has become popular in the recent years. Matip was originally seen as a back up to Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez, but with both players struggling with injuries and their own personal issues, it was Matip that was called to step up and fill the voids. His reliability throughout last season was a big part of what helped make Liverpool European Champions once more.
“Joel has been operating as a world-class centre-half throughout this year and long may it continue,” added Klopp.
“I haven’t seen many in his position performing with the consistency and quality he has been.
“Obviously here at Liverpool, we’re very lucky to have not only him, but also Virg, Dejan and Joe in the position. I’m fortunate to be able to pick from such outstanding talent.
“Off the pitch, Joel is one of the nicest, most humble guys you could wish to meet, but on it he is a fighter, someone who gives everything to try to help the team get the victory. He has a winner’s mentality.
“He loves what he is doing and for us to have him here for even longer is perfect for us all.”
Going into Sunday’s match against Manchester United, this little bit of stability will surely help whatever they throw at our defenses.