With Joel Matip celebrating his 30th birthday today, he will know that this season is his final chance to show everyone that he is truly world-class.
The Cameroonian has been at Liverpool since 2015. There is no doubting that he has become a fan favourite in this time.
He has won the league and Champions League, as a key part of both triumphs.
Yet he does not get the appreciation that he deserves from outside Merseyside.
Most Liverpool fans would agree that Matip, when fit, is one of the best centre-backs on the planet.
But it is rare to hear any non-Reds bigging him up.
If you ask a regular football fan to name the top five central defenders on the planet, very few would name Matip.
For us, that is where he belongs.
We mentioned the phrase “when fit” earlier on. That is the big point to note.
He simply isn’t fit often enough.
So, now that he looks sharp and ready to go for 2021/22, Joel Matip has the chance to show the world what we already know – he is a world-class footballer.
What makes Matip world-class?
Come to think of it, naming the top five centre-backs in the world is a tough challenge.
Of course, Virgil van Dijk is No 1. But after that?
Ruben Dias has only had one year at the top level and has his weaknesses. Raphael Varane, Kalidou Koulibaly and Aymeric Laporte all went through patchy form last season.
David Alaba is up there, while Sergio Ramos is no longer in that bracket.
As far as we are concerned, Joel Matip has no weaknesses.
He is an aerial monster, has pace, strength, excellent reading of the game and top ability on the ball.
But we see basically every game he plays. The more casual fan probably has not seen enough of him to know all this.
If Matip can stay fit, a big if, and plays almost every game, we are sure that he will be seen as world-class by the football world before the season is out.
At 30-years-old, he is not going to be around for much longer if his injury issues continue.
We expect him to start the first game of the season. He has to stay fit and ensure that he doesn’t lose his place.
Joe Gomez is already a big competitor for him, while Ibou Konate will be hoping to have a say too. Matip really has to nail down a regular starting spot now if he wants a future as a Liverpool key man.
That is why this is his last chance to show the world how good he really is.