LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 24, 2019: Liverpool's Joel Matip celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Long may it continue” – Jurgen Klopp welcomes Joel Matip’s rise to top-class status

Joel Matip has taken time to adjust to his unique physicality, but Jurgen Klopp has welcomed his rise to near-undroppable form at the back for Liverpool.

Matip joined the Reds on a free transfer from Schalke in 2016, but has struggled for consistency in recent years as he worked through a series of injury problems.

The 28-year-old now finds himself as a first-choice starter alongside Virgil van Dijk, and on a number of occasions already this season he has outperformed his world-class centre-back partner.

Despite his experience in the Bundesliga, Klopp has acknowledged Matip needed time to adapt to his physicality on joining Liverpool, but described him as “one of the best pieces of business we did in the last years.”

“That’s what happens to footballers, that’s what happens to human beings, with the challenges you have,” he said of Matip’s slow-burning success.

“In either world you grow with it. But Joel was always an incredible talent, he played as an 18-year-old boy with Schalke in the Bundesliga.

“That’s not that easy, the respect in England for the Bundesliga is not too big, but it’s a strong league!

“He played there and he was always a standout player for them, a real fixed point in their defence from very early in his life already.

“Then you lack a little bit of consistency, that can happen, especially with his physicality; on one side it’s a strength, on the other side there are issues obviously.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 11, 2018: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp and Joel Matip after the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St. Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I’m tall as well, so it doesn’t always look sensational when we move, so that’s what you have to learn, to deal with all these things.

“But of course he grew, and he developed, and with the team, how we all did.

“In a world of big transfer fees, signing a player like Joel Matip on a free transfer, that’s incredible, maybe one of the best pieces of business we did in the last years.

“So yes, all good, really they play together but it’s not [only] Joel: when Joe played, or Dejan played, not only with Virg but when they played they are really, really, really good players.

“We have no issue with that position, thank god. That doesn’t mean they are perfect and won’t make mistakes. They will make mistakes, but really not too often.

“And in the best case we then sort it with the others, so then nobody speaks about it after the game.

“But yes, Joel is in a really good moment—long, long, long may that continue, that would be cool.”

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool made another high-profile free signing a year before Matip’s arrival, with James Milner joining from Man City to take over as vice-captain.

The 33-year-old produced an excellent performance in his fourth start of the season on Wednesday night as he scored one and assist the other in the Reds’ 2-0 win at MK Dons.

Though his game time is decreasing, Klopp has insisted Milner is still “unbelievably important” on and off the pitch, but he gave no indication that his contract will be extended beyond 2020.

“He is Mr. Professional, that’s how it is. Very, very serious in all the things he does, but still a funny guy in the dressing room,” the manager said.

“In a game like this at MK Dons, for example, you go there and you play with five kids, that’s good, nice. Then you have six first-team regulars on the pitch, the others didn’t really travel.

“You get kind of a feeling when they play MK Dons, ‘nice, thank you very much boss’.

“But in no chance in the team, as long as a guy like James or Adam, or Hendo if he would have been involved, [could you show a lack of respect].

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 25, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner sees his header go wide during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“From the first moment, if you are here, we give our everything.

“He’s a role model for all the young boys, not only the young boys, because [he has had] an exceptional career so far.

“He looks like [he has] a few more years in the locker, that’s really good.

“Contract situations, even when we talk about Milly we don’t talk about it here, that’s how it is. But we are really happy to have him.”