By Connor Varnish – @cvarn4
Liverpool’s acquisition of Brazil’s number-one goalkeeper, Alisson Becker, prior to this season signalled what would be a long-awaited end to the Reds’ search for a consistent and reliable custodian between the sticks.
The Brazilian stopper exudes class we haven’t seen from the goalkeeping position since José Manuel ‘Pepe’ Reina was employed by the club nearly ten years ago.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances it would appear that Liverpool’s goalkeeping concerns have been sorted for the distant future – but, the question remains of who will slot in as backup to Alisson at the start of next season?
Simon Mignolet has served as a commendable professional behind the Brazilian so far this current campaign, but it is highly likely the Belgian decides to move on from the Reds once summer rolls around.
Liverpool’s No. 22 has managed to repair his damaged Reds legacy this season almost solely down to his use of social media – after nearly every match Mignolet’s twitter feed is full of praise for those that took to the pitch for the Reds, despite only playing in two competitive matches for Liverpool this season himself.
We can’t really blame the Belgian should he choose to find regular first-team action with another team considering he’s arguably in the prime of his goalkeeping career at 31.
Another shout for Liverpool’s ‘number two’ next year comes in the form of a certain German playing in Turkey at the moment. Loris Karius’ Liverpool career was one that started with promise but, as we all know, ended disastrously (to put it nicely).
With rumours of Karius being treated unfairly at Besiktas, there are a few calls for Jurgen Klopp to bring the German keeper back to Liverpool to sit behind Alisson. However, I feel as though this may not be what’s best for Karius – still only 25 – at this stage in his career.
Seeing as Mignolet only played twice this far this season, it’s likely Karius will only see the field a handful of times should Liverpool decide to bring him back. It might also be worth mentioning that Reds fans have long memories and that perhaps it’d be best if the former Mainz stopper got back to playing somewhere with less pressure than in the Premier League.
With Mignolet and Karius more than likely moving on from Liverpool in one way or another in the summer, Jurgen Klopp has two options in my opinion: give youth a chance, or try his luck in the transfer market.
Kamil Grabara, a 20-year-old Polish ‘keeper currently on loan with Danish side AFG Aarhus will be the likely choice should Klopp replace Mignolet from within. Grabara was quoted last year in November stating he could reach the heights of Alisson if given the opportunity.
The Pole certainly doesn’t lack confidence as he feels that if he can keep up with the Brazilian in training, then he’s capable of getting to Alisson’s level someday should he keep progressing. But would the youngster be content with only featuring a few times per season with Liverpool though?
It’s hard to tell for sure who Liverpool’s backup goalkeeper will be for next season, but I have a feeling it won’t be Karius or Mignolet. Grabara may be happy to play second fiddle to Alisson, but that perhaps may stunt his growth if he’s not given enough opportunity to feature, especially if the Reds fail to progress in the domestic cups as they’ve made a habit of doing recently.
The summer transfer window will be an interesting one for sure, and perhaps the least talked about matter of business Liverpool have to tend to lies in the need for a backup keeper – and if Klopp deems that Grabara’s development is better suited on loan, then the Reds must dip into the transfer market.
It’s unlikely that the Anfield faithful would be too keen on the possibility of a return of a Karius or even Adam Bogdan (yes, he’s still technically a Liverpool player!).