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‘Matip one of Liverpool’s best pieces of business’ - Klopp lauds value found in free agent

12:53 am AEST 28/9/19
The former Schalke centre-half has emerged as first-choice alongside Virgil van Dijk this season and his manager rates him among his best signings

Jurgen Klopp has saluted Joel Matip as one of his best signings at Liverpool following the Cameroonian defender's emergence as a regular at centre-back this season.

Matip joined Liverpool in 2016 having come through the ranks at Schalke, where he was a first-team starter as young as 18.

He made 49 Premier League starts across his first two campaigns in the Premier League, but often found himself out of the side last term as Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez offered competition.

However, this season Matip has played all but one of Liverpool's six Premier League games, seemingly establishing himself as the first-choice partner of Virgil van Dijk ahead of Gomez.

And Klopp commended the Germany-born centre-back's development since joining on a free transfer, rating him as one of his finest signings.

“That’s what happens with footballers, that’s what happens with human beings,” the Reds boss told reporters when reflecting on the journey taken by a 28-year-old centre-half.

“The challenges you have, in an ideal world you grow with it. But Joel was always an incredible talent, he played as an 18-year-old boy already for Schalke in the Bundesliga, so that’s not that easy. 

“Maybe the respect in England for the Bundesliga is not too big but it’s a strong league and he played there and he was always a standout player for them, a really fixed point in their defence very early in his life.

“Then yes, you lack a little bit of consistency - that can happen, especially with his physical [stature]. On one side it’s a strength, on the other side there are issues obviously. I’m tall as well and it doesn’t always look sensational when we move and that’s what you have to learn, to deal with all these things. But of course he grew and he developed with the team, how we all did. 

“In a world of big transfer fees, signing a player like Joel Matip on a free transfer is incredible, that was maybe one of the best pieces of business we did in the last years. So yes, all good really. 

“They [Matip and Van Dijk] played together but it’s not Joel, when Joe played or Dejan played, not only with Virg but when they played, they are really, really, really good players and we have no issue with that position thank God. 

“That doesn’t mean they are perfect and they will not make mistakes, they will make mistakes but not too often and in the best case we then sort it with the others so then nobody speaks about it after the game. 

“But yes, Joel is in a really good moment - long, long, long may it continue. That would be really cool.”

Matip has passed the 100-appearance mark for Liverpool this season and will be hoping that there are many more to come, with it reported that a 12-month extension option has been taken up in his contract to take him through to 2021.