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Joel Matip: taking his chances to secure his Liverpool future

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It’s one of the oldest, most relevant clichés in both football and life itself: make sure you take your chances.

Want that shot at promotion at work? You’d better take your chances.

If Mohamed Salah wants to win a third successive golden boot? He has to take his chances in front of goal.

And when his Liverpool career seemed uncertain around 12 months ago, Joel Matip was placed in this very same scenario.

His chances of first team football were limited and he knew that when his chances arose, he simply had to take them.

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And his chance did come – albeit in unfortunate circumstances for Joe Gomez who suffered a broken leg against Burnley last winter.

It presented an opening in what was the new-look, water-tight Liverpool defence Jürgen Klopp had constructed.

So, when Matip was thrust back into the team, what did he decide to do? Take. His. Chance.

From third choice to near undroppable

Fast forward to the present day, and it seems that Matip can do no wrong.

He enjoyed a brilliant second half of the season last term and was pivotal in Liverpool’s Champions League victory.

The Cameroonian has started well again this season, with four solid league performances and a goal to his name already.

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Some are even arguing that his form has been even better than that of Virgil van Dijk of late.

It’s not a major surprise; Matip has always shown signs of class, but he’s come into his element over the past year.

But one thing it does provide stark contrast to is the fate of fellow centre back, Dejan Lovren.

Divergent paths

Lovren has always been a divisive figure at Anfield, and he has failed where Matip has excelled of late.

He’s been given plenty of opportunities, but he has never really grabbed the bull by the horns.

With Lovren, it always feels as though another error is just around the corner.

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His mistakes always seem to haunt and hurt him, and he doesn’t really grow from them.

And at the age of 30, you’d think that you can’t teach an old dog knew tricks at this stage.

Never has a truer word been spoken than about Lovren.

But when we look at Matip, a player two years his junior, it seems he’s growing constantly alongside van Dijk.

Perhaps playing with Liverpool’s imperious number four has aided Matip’s game and pushed him to improve?

Perhaps playing with such an accomplished defender has given Matip the confidence to push his game to the next level?

Whatever it is, he looks like a man reborn and one The Kop has really taken to its heart recently.

And Matip’s thriving off that and his partnership with van Dijk.

It takes a top talent, in whatever field in the world, to acknowledge areas they can improve.

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Matip has clearly gone away, analysed his game and done exactly this.

And his story, which appears just to be really beginning, should serve as one of inspiration to the whole squad.

Competition for places will remain fierce under Klopp, but players should never count themselves out.

There may be a few exceptions, and unfortunately Lovren is one – but this is something years in the making.

Matip’s emergence as a classy partner for Virgil only cements Lovren’s fate, and that too should serve as a lesson to others.

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