One of the greatest free transfers in Liverpool’s history, we should enjoy Joel Matip while we still can…
WATCHING this team can often spotlight the inadequacies of the past.
Alisson Becker makes your defence of Loris Karius seem shameful. Watching Dominik Szobozslai leaves you shaking your head about how you once thought Emre Can would reach a similar ceiling.
There was once a theory that Martin Skrtel would follow one good season with one bad. It wasn’t unfounded.
Skrtel was Liverpool player of the season in 2011/12. He was excellent in 2013-14. The campaigns either side in 2012-13 and 2014-15 made you wince.
He might be the best comparison of all to a modern-day counterpart.
Thinking about Joel Matip’s Liverpool career can stir something similar in the stomach. He’s a whirling dervish of good and bad memories. He’s been peripheral in bad Liverpool performances and a mainstay in the very best.
The difference between Matip and Skrtel – ability apart – is that the Cameroon defender simply performs better if the team is performing well.
Last season, he was at the scene of the Wolves and Brighton debacles early in the new year. The bleakest of Liverpool days under Jurgen Klopp.
He was abject. Not just in being part but in individual error. Many would have moved him on in the summer on account of last season alone.
There was a feeling that Matip had nothing else to give. At 32-years-old entering the final year of a contract the trajectory pointed down.
The campaign of 2021-22 saw Matip make 43 appearances for Liverpool during a marathon 63 game season. He was fantastic in the pursuit to finish with four trophies.
Discounting his 12 appearances in 2020-21, Matip’s form had been pretty much impeccable since Virgil van Dijk came in midway through 2017-18, thus debunking the Skrtel comparison.
Last season, he plummeted to 21 appearances – most of them as lacklustre and toiling as the team’s performance.
Injury has always been a thing with Matip. It will probably do for him in terms of any potential new deal. He’s hit good patches of fitness in line with good individual and team form.
There is nothing in the numbers to suggest what’s caused the upturn so far this season. He has a few more aerial wins to his name. His passing accuracy is up slightly and is giving less fouls away.
A sharpening of the mind, perhaps? The thing about Matip is he’s a defender who has never enjoyed turning around or being last ditch. He’s someone who loves dealing with what’s in front of him.
At the Tottenham stadium, it was Matip who was slumped most at full-time. Inconsolable despite the rally from Alisson because of his own goal.
Liverpool remains valiant in the face of the weekend defeat. It will be a heartache nobody will recount but one which grates on an athlete who has flawlessly dedicated himself for 96 minutes regardless.
Yet he was exceptional across the game. He was backing up solid performances next to Van Dijk in matches Ibrahima Konate was expected to be back in selection for.
I think he’ll start again at Brighton. I think he’s been trusted for this run of games. That might change after the international break, but for now he’s there deservedly.
Thus concludes the curious case of Joel Matip. A player who will probably depart at the end of the season having been a key component to a team who won most major honours.
He’s on the pitch in Madrid 2019 and Molyneux 2023. He’s been impeccable and atrocious. He’s been finished and once again redeemed.
He has, it must be said, been front and centre of far more good than bad.
He’s probably been one of the greatest free transfers in Liverpool’s history. We should enjoy his quirkiness and competence for as long as we possibly can.