Joel Matip has praised Fabinho‘s “amazing” influence on Liverpool, for the Brazilian’s composure in dangerous situations and tackles with his “gadget” legs.
Fabinho has settled into a key role in Jurgen Klopp‘s side after a slow start to life at Anfield, with the manager eager to nurture his transition to the Premier League.
That adaptation period paid off, with the Brazilian undoubtedly one of the Reds’ best players in the second half of the season, where he has largely operated as a No. 6, but at times also at centre-back.
He took the place of both Matip and Virgil van Dijk when required, with his abilities in the deep-lying midfield role lending themselves well to a position slightly further back.
Now, Matip, Van Dijk and Fabinho serve as the focal point of Liverpool’s engine room; a trio within which Klopp has full trust both on and off the ball.
While his own progress this season has seen his confidence blossom, speaking to the Times‘ Jonathan Northcroft in a brilliant interview, Matip paid tribute to Fabinho‘s impact ahead of him.
“Fabinho is amazing. Watching him against Barcelona, he was everywhere,” the Cameroonian said.
“I don’t know if there were two, three Fabinhos, more…I thought I might need glasses because there were so many of them.
“You always know you can play the ball to him, even a shit ball, he does not get stressed.
“When he makes a tackle…his leg seems to get longer and longer, like a gadget.”
Matip is clearly an articulate, intelligent person, as his conversation with Northcroft flows and he explains why he isn’t on social media and why he prefers reading economics and politics to the sports section in the newspaper.
His praise extends across the squad, from Van Dijk—”a big help to every player”—to Roberto Firmino—whose pressing is “amazing”—and James Milner—”a prototype for a footballer”—but his comments on Fabinho are the most interesting.
It has been a long time since Liverpool have been able to call upon a defensive midfielder with the quality of the 25-year-old.
The last arguably left the club almost a decade ago, with Javier Mascherano joining Barcelona in 2010, having been part of the Reds side to lose to AC Milan in the 2007 Champions League final.
While Matip accepted his place as a “cult hero” in Northcroft’s eyes, Fabinho is a bona fide star, and fully deserving of the praise that comes his way.