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J. Matip

'The one and only Joel Matip!' - Why Liverpool loves its goalscoring, dribbling, social-media superstar

9:57 pm AEST 14/9/22
Joel _Matip_2022
In six years at Anfield, Matip has won everything there is to win - including the hearts of Reds fans and teammates

There could hardly have been a more popular match-winner. As the Kop roared and as Jurgen Klopp punched the air on the sideline, Liverpool’s players mobbed their hero.

“The one and only Joel Matip!” as Virgil van Dijk put it afterwards.

He’s already a firm favourite with supporters, and even more so now, after his 89th-minute header secured a tense, hard-fought 2-1 win over Ajax in the Champions League at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Given the way the Reds’ season has started, it could well prove to be the most important goal Matip has scored for the club.

In any case, it all adds to the legend. Teammates and fans love him, and no wonder.

They have plenty of reasons to…

  • Joel Matip Liverpool 2016

    He was Klopp's first major signing...

    Klopp had only been at Anfield a couple of months when he instructed the club’s recruitment team to go after Matip, who was coming to the end of his contract with Schalke. 

    Liverpool’s defence at that point was built around inconsistent and/or ageing performers such as Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure, but Klopp knew that Matip, whom he had come up against plenty of times while manager of Borussia Dortmund, would bring poise and class, and that his presence would help imprint the manager’s style on the team.

    He wasn’t wrong.

  • Joel Matip Liverpool 2022

    He didn't cost a penny...

    What makes the Matip deal even better is that it didn’t cost Liverpool a penny, in terms of a transfer fee.

    The Reds saw off plenty of competition to land their man, Matip signing a four-year deal in February 2016 before arriving on Merseyside that summer.

    He would make 32 appearances in his first season at Anfield, and has since racked up a total of 171.

    Decent value, you’d say.

  • Joel Matip Liverpool 2019

    He scores goals...

    Matip’s header against Ajax took him into double figures in terms of goals scored for Liverpool, and means he has scored at least once in each of his seven seasons with the club. Only Roberto Firmino, of the current team, has matched him.

    His first Reds strike came in a 4-2 win at Crystal Palace in October 2016, a trademark header from a Philippe Coutinho corner.

    But he scores with his feet too, evidenced at West Ham in 2017, or in wins against Leeds and Aston Villa last season.

  • Divock Origi Liverpool 2019

    He assists them too...

    Officially, Matip has registered six assists for Liverpool, but it’s his first one that will always live longest in the memory.

    You know which one we’re talking about, right? Divock Origi may be the hero of the Reds’ 2019 Champions League triumph, but it was Matip who laid the ball off for the Belgian to secure victory over Tottenham at Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium.

  • He kept Messi quiet...

    And who could forget Matip’s contribution to what was arguably Anfield’s greatest ever night, that epic semi-final victory over Barcelona in 2019?

    Again, the limelight went to others - Origi, Gini Wijnaldum and Trent Alexander-Arnold mainly - but it’s easy to forget just how well Liverpool had to defend in that game, knowing a single away goal would almost certainly kill their comeback hopes.

    Matip, alongside Van Dijk and with Alisson Becker behind them, was magnificent, shackling Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, biting into tackles while somehow retaining composure and pose amid a frenzied atmosphere. 

    And it was his pass, albeit a misplaced one, which led to the Reds’ first goal on the night too…

  • He's a lucky charm...

    Tuesday night’s goal was Matip’s first in the Champions League for Liverpool, and cemented his status as the Reds’ lucky charm.

    He has scored in 10 different games for the club, and they have not lost any of them, winning nine.

    If they could get him on the scoresheet every week, they’d win the lot.

  • He's the King of the Dribble...

    The Virgil van Dijk diagonal, the Mo Salah slot, the Trent Alexander-Arnold ping, the Thiago Alcantara shoulder drop and the Jurgen Klopp fist pump.

    Liverpool fans know all of these sights well, but there’s another which gets Anfield on its feet time and time again. 

    The Joel Matip dribble.

    It happens regularly, as Klopp’s side often find themselves attempting to pick their way through a packed, well-organised defensive unit. 

    Matip and Van Dijk generally tend to have the most touches in games as a result, but while the Dutchman prefers to play raking passes from left to right, Matip’s forte is to step into midfield and change the angle of the Reds’ attack.

    It often works, never better than in the win over Leeds last season, when he strode forward from the back, exchanged passes with Salah and slotted home Liverpool’s second goal.

  • He's massively underrated...

    If you were to pick an underrated member of this Liverpool side, than Matip would surely be your man.

    He has been there throughout the Reds’ rise to prominence, and while Van Dijk tends to be the man credited with solidifying Klopp’s defence, even the Dutchman would admit he has had the perfect foil alongside him in Matip.

    He's some defender, you know. His aerial ability, reading of the game and use of the ball is of the highest quality, and only injuries have stopped him from being recognised as one of Europe’s best.

  • He's won the lot...

    Champions League. European Super Cup. Club World Cup. Premier League. Carabao Cup. FA Cup. Community Shield.

    Not a bad medal collection, is it? In six years on Merseyside, Matip has won every club honour possible, and come agonisingly close to a couple more titles and a couple more Champions League wins.

    He was also, for good measure, part of the last Schalke team to win a domestic trophy (2.Bundesliga not withstanding), lifting the DFB-Pokal Cup and the German Super Cup in 2011.

  • He's a Twitter legend...

    Matip is one of the few Liverpool players who shuns social media, but that hasn’t stopped him becoming something of a legend on Twitter.

    The @NoContextJMatip account has over 155,000 followers, including Alisson Becker, and its content, which usually features pictures or videos of Matip reacting to on-field events with quirky comments or facial expressions, is regularly enjoyed within the Reds dressing room.

    Van Dijk even turned up to one kit launch event wearing a T-shirt bearing his defensive partner’s face. “I love the man,” he told the cameras.

    He’s not alone, it seems.

  • He absolutely loves a celebration...

    If you interviewed Matip, you’d come away thinking he was far from the most expressive or emotional footballer you could ever encounter. A bit dull, in fact.

    Give him a goal to celebrate, though, and he comes alive. You saw that after his Ajax header, when he raced to the Kop before being mobbed by his team-mates, but also in the recent Premier League victory over Newcastle at Anfield.

    Matip was an unused substitute that night, but as the Reds bench celebrated Fabio Carvalho’s 98th-minute winner, there he was, on his hands and knees in the technical area, beating the ground in delight. He loves it, and fans love him for it.