Eyes will rightly be fixed on Jürgen Klopp’s Sunday departure, but here’s why Liverpool hero Joel Matip deserves a great send off too…


I DON’T like goodbyes.

Anguished farewells, one last glance before turning away forever and the accompanied sense of loss are all a bit extreme for someone of low emotional intelligence. I’d rather it was done.

Next week will be tough (though tougher still to get a ticket), but it’s not just Jürgen Klopp that’s clearing out his locker. My current favourite player will be too.

Joel Matip. I know, yeah.

A bit of an odd choice when there’s two Scouse lads in the team, one of the greatest forwards in the history of the club and possibly our best ever goalie (sorry, Clem), but I bloody love big Joel.

I don’t blame you for knotting your eyebrows. I know the arguments.

The injuries, the form of Ibou (and latterly Jarell) combined with the odd rick in defence, but that’s far outweighed by the massive positives.

Firstly, Trent’s corner aside, his might be my favourite assist of all time. The European Cup final.

Three minutes to go and the big man should by rights be back in his own half awaiting a break. I mean, alright, he’s up for a corner but Virgil’s in there too and both get a touch.

The ball breaks to him and he lets it run off his shin by simply walking into the ball. Then Divock Origi pulls his foot back. Cue bedlam.

Joel Matip laid on the ball that secured a sixth European Cup for The Reds. At any other club there’d be a statue and a seat in the ground reserved for him and him alone.

But it’s not even that. It’s his own… I don’t know, ‘demeanour’. He strikes me as an unusual man and in an age of media-trained-to-death players it’s great to see a personality emerge.

Virgil van Dijk absolutely adores him. On those ‘Inside Anfield’ videos he looks at him as if amazed.

Have a look at this…


He repeatedly calls him a legend. ‘Love the man,’ and though it may be piss-taky in tone, he’s clearly equally intrigued by him as adoring.

In another video, Ibrahima Konate calls him ‘the funniest man at the club.’ I suspect that Job Joel Andre Matip doesn’t always mean to be.

And then there’s the on-field stuff.

Hammering the turf when a decision goes against him, the comic march towards the ref when he feels aggrieved, twatting Henderson on the back of the head when he was celebrating a goal and Joel was a substitute (a lovely ‘WTF’ look back at him afterwards), or jumping up and down with his arms outstretched when the linesman hasn’t seen an offside.

No McManaman coolness here. Just a player loving his football and getting wrapped up in it like a kid on a park pitch.

In 2013, I appeared on a podcast where Rob Gutmann likened a centre-half carrying a ball through midfield to a horse running through a housing estate. I’ve seldom heard of a better analogy to describe Joel’s awkward gait slaloming through a bemused midfield, wondering what the hell he’s doing there.

He’s not the first to do that, of course. The great Alan Hansen was famed for bringing the ball out of defence and running/stumbling into unchartered waters with the ball at his feet, looking for all the world like he’d lose it at any moment but somehow always managing to maintain control, but these things seem to be generational and it’s great to see it again.

There were times when I wondered if his partnership with Virgil would work. Both being possibly too laid back, but a litany of trophies tells its own story.

It looks like he’ll end his Liverpool career with 201 appearances and 11 goals (he loved playing against Southampton). Sadly, that doesn’t include his disallowed goal in the League Cup final, which cost my mate a fortune and a hell of a night out in the capital.

Could he make the bench for Sunday? He’s certainly back in training and running, equine-like around the training ground.

As one of the club’s greatest ever free signings along with Gary McAllister and James Milner, it would certainly be fitting for him to receive an ovation.


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