By Matthew Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
We’re all still on cloud nine after our latest Champions League triumph, but it’s now time to mention and reward two BIG players that didn’t have much expected of them when our season kicked off back in August.
Joel Matip and James Milner could not have expected much playing time when the season got underway. With Dejan Lovren having ended last season as Virgil van Dijk’s defensive partner and Joe Gomez enjoying an impressive start to the campaign, many saw Matip as our fourth-choice central defender.
In the case of the ‘ageing’ James Milner, many predicted the same, especially after the arrivals of Fabinho and Naby Keita.
However, whether due to injury or pure hard work, the two men have forced their way into a main spot in Liverpool’s squad and have been vital in our end of season charge.
Such performances warrant a substantial reward, and in my opinion, these two should see their contracts renewed as I don’t want them anywhere other than Anfield.
‘Age is just a number’
To those who listen to our podcast – that really should be all of you – it will come as no secret that I absolute adore our Jimmy. Just look at that winning smile. He is a tireless worker, has a never say die attitude and possesses the ability to play in different positions better than some of those who specialise in said positions – Alberto Moreno we’re all looking at you.
Throughout the season, there has been some confusion regarding Milner’s contract situation at Anfield. Many believed that the veteran midfield vice-captain was out of contract this summer.
James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo put that speculation to bed, confirming that his deal still has a year to run – meaning we still have at least one more season of lung-busting running, tough tackling and pressure-less penalty-taking left to enjoy.
The question now becomes should he be given an extension next season, when he would be 34…
As I said at the start, yes. 100% yes, no question about it. The man is vital to this side, even more so than what people give him credit for. Apart from being versatile, hard-working and tireless, Milner also provides this team with a level of experience that would otherwise be absent – he’s lifted the Premier League.
The league is the prize that everyone associated to Liverpool is dying to get their hands on, and this guy, has been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Twice. For that fact on its own we should keep him around for as long as possible and allow our younger players to learn from him.
Moreover, Milly is old enough to not demand a starting spot week in, week out. That’s something that isn’t easy to find in football, players who will sit on the bench and not make a fuss. Every time he’s been left out he has worked harder and forced his way back into the side. Regardless of his age, he is a character and an influence that I want to keep in and around the squad.
I think Klopp will see past age and extend Milner’s contract, or at least try to. I reckon the only threat to Milner’s Liverpool career is the potential promotion of Leeds to the Premier League. Should his boyhood club earn promotion next season then it is likely that his head will be turned, but we should still try to keep him around.
At the end of the day, age is just a number and Milner is making a mockery of claims that his career was on the decline after leaving City. He’s ageing like a fine wine and is probably the fittest player in our squad and will continue to be if his work ethic is anything to go by. For me, letting his contract wind down isn’t even an option.
More for marvellous Matip
It may be an unpopular opinion to have, but Joel has recently been churning out performances of the same calibre as Virgil for me. He has barely stepped a foot wrong since returning from injury, and in the Champions League Final this weekend he also notched his first assist for the club, and what a vital one it was – “Matip to Origi!!!!!!!!.”
Matip has been a rock at the back, and his wild runs from deep are thrilling – if not a bit terrifying – to watch. They used to simply fill me with dread, but now with Virgil at the back I know that even if he loses the ball we’ll be fine. Matip hasn’t given Klopp an excuse to drop him, but with Joe Gomez back on the mend and the transfer window open anything is possible.
Many fans and pundits are calling for Liverpool to sign a new central defender to partner our gigantic Dutchman at the back – with Matthijs De Ligt being the popular choice.
Regardless of whether or not a new centre back signing comes through the doors at Melwood, one thing remains clear, Matip definitely has earned himself an extension. Like Milner, the Cameroonian still has time left on his current deal but, as I keep saying, he deserves the security from the club and a new contract would guarantee him that for years to come.
By keeping Matip, Jürgen Klopp will again find himself in the promising position of having yet another pure professional at his disposal, as regardless of whether he has been on the pitch or not, Matip has not caused any off field drama, has kept his head down and proved that he belongs in our back line.
I can see only positives coming out of keeping these two lads at the club, they are clearly positive influences in the dressing room as well as on the pitch, and Klopp would be hard-pressed to replace the two lads without breaking the bank.