Joel Matip can be one of the best defenders in the world if he maintains his Liverpool progress, according to Noel Whelan.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-Leeds United and Coventry City striker has been blown away by Matip’s improvement this year.

Whelan claims Matip, 28, is rightfully the regular centre-back partner for Ballon D’Or contender Virgil van Dijk after seizing his opportunity presented by an injury to Joe Gomez last December.

Football Insider revealed last week that Matip has agreed the terms of a five-year contract worth around £120,000-a-week, equivalent to £31million.

“Matip has always looked a good centre-back but he has benefited so much from Van Dijk,” Whelan told Football Insider. “Van Dijk’s calmness and authority just rubs off on everyone else.

“He’s the best centre-back in the world and Matip looks barely any less commanding. That is the highest compliment you can pay him.

“You’ve seen him go to a new level this year and he’s at such a good age for a centre-back, a position where you mature later than attacking and midfield players.

“He can be one of the world’s best, absolutely. Liverpool are the Champions League holders and title favourites. If you’re playing regularly for one of the best teams, you’re a real star.”

Matip has started seven of Liverpool’s nine Premier League matches this season, including Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United.

He has made 108 appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s side since signing from Schalke on a free transfer in the summer of 2016.

In other Liverpool news, a pundit raves to Football Insider about “electric” Anfield fringe player he tips to be a “Premier League superstar”.