In a game as big as the Champions League final, you would expect most players involved from the first whistle to be nailed on regulars, players who had started almost every game that season.
For Joel Matip, that wasn’t the case.
The Cameroon international was involved in Jurgen Klopp’s starting eleven just three times out of Liverpool’s first 21 Premier League matches in 2018/19, and only made his way into the side after a serious injury to Joe Gomez – he started 17 of his 22 league appearances.
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Since the England international suffered his injury away to Burnley in December, Matip has been absolutely superb alongside Virgil van Dijk.
Impressively, the former Schalke man started 14 of the Reds’ last 17 games in all competitions, and was particularly colossal in the Champions League final against Tottenham.
We saw in last year’s final between Liverpool and Real Madrid that players who seemed competent can crumble on the big stage.
Loris Karius, who had impressed in the domestic fixtures leading up to the final in Kiev, completely fell apart under the pressure.
But the same couldn’t be said for Matip; if anything, his level of performance went up a notch.
He recorded a huge 14 clearances, and was especially tidy on the ball throughout despite Tottenham arguably being the better side and posing the Reds backline a few problems.
Matip also made two key passes and grabbed the assist for Divock Origi’s winning goal with a nice pass into the Belgian’s feet – he performed better than the imperious Virgil van Dijk, who received the UEFA Man of the Match award.
The 27-year-old was up against a dangerous attacking quartet in Harry Kane – a truly world-class striker – Heung-min Son, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, but coped with them easily and won three aerial duels throughout.
He may not have started the season in Klopp’s first-choice eleven, but he has most certainly worked his way into it.