Former Premier League striker Noel Whelan has said that Liverpool defender Joel Matip has reached “a new level” this season and believes he can be one of the best players in the world in his position.
Speaking to Football Insider, Whelan said that the Cameroon centre-back has prospered from playing alongside Virgil van Dijk at the heart of the Reds’ defence and said that he could yet become “a real star”.
Whelan told Football Insider: “Matip has always looked a good centre-back but he has benefited so much from Van Dijk. Van Dijk’s calmness and authority just rubs off on everyone else.
“He’s the best centre-back in the world and Matip looks barely any less commanding. That is the highest compliment you can pay him.
“You’ve seen him go to a new level this year and he’s at such a good age for a centre-back, a position where you mature later than attacking and midfield players.
“He can be one of the world’s best, absolutely. Liverpool are the Champions League holders and title favourites. If you’re playing regularly for one of the best teams, you’re a real star.”
When analysing Matip’s statistics for the season so far in comparison to previous years, Whelan is right to point out that his performances have reached a higher standard of late.
In the Premier League this season, the 28-year-old has posted match averages of 5.9 successful aerial duels, 5.3 clearances, 1.7 successful tackles, 1.7 interceptions, 0.6 blocks and 70.1 passes. [via WhoScored]
His equivalent figures for 2018/19 were three successful aerial duels, 3.5 clearances, 1.8 successful tackles, 1.5 interceptions, 0.3 blocks and 61 passes per game. [via WhoScored]
While the tackling average has slightly diminished, Matip has improved notably in every other metric, with his figures for aerial duels and passes per game the highest they have ever been in a domestic league campaign for the Cameroon international, as per WhoScored.
Matip has earned Klopp’s trust as a regular presence in Liverpool’s first XI through posting a consistent string of performances which have seen a significant statistical increase from last season, so Whelan is right in saying that the 28-year-old has reached “a new level” over recent months at Anfield.
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