Football News

“I wish I had that quality” — Virgil van Dijk lauds Joel Matip’s ball-carrying ability

By Ben Green

Published: 16:34, 25 February 2022 | Updated: 18:01, 24 November 2022

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk says he ‘wishes’ he had the ball-carrying confidence and ability of his centre-back partner Joel Matip.

Jurgen Klopp’s men eased past Leeds United 6-0 in midweek to move just three points below Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Both Van Dijk and Matip got their names on the scoresheet in the rout at Anfield, with the latter drawing particularly high praise for his effort.

Carrying the ball forward out of defence, Matip surged into opposition territory before picking Salah out, with the Egyptian returning the favour and culminating in the Cameroonian firing past Illan Meslier to double Liverpool’s advantage.

It was an expertly taken finish from the towering defender who, not only drew praise for such a cultured finish, but already had his teammates in awe for the way he drove up the pitch and continued his run into the box.

“It’s a big quality of him – I wish I had that quality at times!” Van Dijk told the club’s official website.

“He just can go without any fear at all and hope for the best a little bit! But he has that quality. It’s a big strength of him and obviously it’s useful because it drags other players from their position and today obviously the space was there to make that run and finish it off.

“I said to him already before the game I felt it coming because he had an assist for Diogo [Jota] and I said, ‘A goal is next!’ so I’m obviously very happy for him.”

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Matip has endured his fair share of injury problems since relocating to Merseyside, but Van Dijk now believes Liverpool fans are seeing the best of him.

He added: “I think also himself, mentally he is at a good place.

“I think the four of us, because we cannot forget Joe [Gomez], who is obviously not even in the squad at the moment, but four of us are keeping each other as sharp as we can.

“We need everyone and obviously it’s very good to see that he is fit, he is playing on a high level and whether I play with him, Ibou [Konate] or Joe, it’s always good to be out there together and work hard.”

Matip and Van Dijk are set to form a centre-back partnership in Sunday’s League Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley, where the Reds will look to move level with Manchester United as England’s most succesful club ever — currently on 65 trophies to their rival’s 66.