Joel Matip told Liverpool’s official website that Virgil van Dijk is the ‘complete defender’ and hailed his ‘big impact’ on the Reds.
The Dutchman has had an impact on Liverpool that is surely more than anyone was expecting. Even the most optimistic supporter would never have predicted the defensive transformation that has occurred as a result of his £75million move to Anfield.
Matip told Liverpool’s official website: “He’s a great defender.
“And being around him, I think everybody improves. He has had a big impact on the improvement. It’s great to play [with] him. He’s a complete defender and he knows what to do.
“Every defender does things a little bit differently. You always need some time to really know each other. This is normal. I think we need this time in a good way and this is working most of the time quite well.”
Matip has benefitted hugely from van Dijk’s presence at the back this season.
Playing alongside a defender as dominant and reliable as the former Southampton skipper means Matip is able to venture forward with the ball and not worry about leaving Liverpool in a position where they are at risk of being exposed on the counter-attack.
The Cameroonian enjoys his forays forward when there is very little movement between the lines or when space opens up in front of him.
When he was partnered with Dejan Lovren, this was quite risky as the Croat is not as composed under pressure or as skilled as van Dijk with defending 2-v-1s.
While there is a fair number of Liverpool fans that think Lovren is actually a decent player, he certainly gives supporters heart palpitations with the way he defends.
It might actually have been a blessing disguise that he has been injured for most of 2019 as it meant that Klopp had no choice but to select Matip.
There are suggestions that Lovren could leave the club at the end of the season and this would honestly be a step in the right direction.