John Gibbons: Joel Matip will find himself in the limelight if he’s not careful

Klopp has worked his magic on the big man at Liverpool.


It’s tough to get the headlines when you line up alongside Virgil van Djik.

When your centre half partner plays, looks and, according to Troy Deeney, even smells better than you, you are always likely to play second fiddle to the current PFA and UEFA Player of the Year.

Luckily that role seems to suit the quiet, unassuming Joel Matip, who strikes you as a man happy enough for others to have the limelight. Meanwhile, he just gets on with his game.

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However, that game has been so impressive for so long now, that people are starting to talk much more loudly about the quiet man of Anfield. No longer can we just talk about a purple patch or a good run of form.

It has to be accepted now that this is just Joel Matip’s level.

In recent weeks we have even seen him take greater responsibility on the pitch. Against Chelsea when Liverpool found themselves up against it holding on for a win, it was Matip who seemed to be winning every header in the box. Thwarting every Chelsea attack.

The statistics back up a great output from Matip. So far this season he has won 18 headers, the joint 9th in the Premier League, compared to 11 for Van Djik.

He’s won twice as many tackles as Van Djik too and made the same number of clearances.

This isn’t to talk down Van Djik of course, he is still brilliant. It maybe just reflects that people have given up trying to score on the side Van Djik is on and trying to target Joel Matip. But, they have found an adversary more impressive than they probably imagined.

A couple of years ago the only way Joel Matip was being brought up in press conferences was when Jurgen Klopp was having to defend him, alongside our other centre-halves who we’d all decided weren’t up to the job.

One of those occasions was in August 2017, when Klopp, under pressure to strengthen the position, famously said there wasn’t five centre-halves better than the ones who were at Liverpool at the time.

This was largely derided at the time, and Joel Matip wasn’t even deemed the best of the bad bunch.

Now Klopp is invited to talk about Matip in a much more positive way. In the pre-match press conference for the Sheffield United game Klopp described Matip as “one of the best pieces of business” Liverpool have done in the past few years, which considering Liverpool’s recent record in the transfer market, is some compliment.

Big fees, small or, in the case of Joel Matip, non-existent, Liverpool have had way more hits than misses under Jurgen Klopp.

The fact Matip is one that Klopp is most proud of, speaks volumes.

It is also a reminder of the very differing make up of this team. When Klopp mentions the greater spending power of rivals, world record fees for goalkeepers and defenders is always thrown in his face.

But, these are supplemented with free transfers and bargains.

Virgil Van Djik might have cost £75m, but the only money spent on the rest of the first-choice defence, was the £8m given to Hull City for Andy Robertson, and he was effectively just a swap for Kevin Stewart.

Generally speaking, Jurgen Klopp has continued his reputation from Germany of being able to get a song from any instrument, no matter how expensive. But, none have been on a greater journey over the last 12 months than Joel Matip.

Many Liverpool fans would have cast him aside in the past, but not now. In his role in the production of meanest defence in the league, he’s moved from a bit-part player to the starring role.

If the impressive performances continue he might just have to get used to the limelight he now finds himself in.

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