By Mick Moran – @m1cklfc
In today’s market £67million for a goalkeeper is what some would deem ludicrous – but that’s what Liverpool paid for Alisson Becker in July 2018.
The Reds stumped up the cash to make the former Roma star the world’s most expensive stopper. That record lasted just under three weeks until it was ‘bettered’ by Chelsea when they signed Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga for £71m.
A Champions League medal and Copa America title later with his native Brazil is an outstanding achievement for the 26-year-old in what is – amazingly – his debut season for Liverpool. I don’t believe we’ve had a goalkeeper play for Liverpool who is anywhere near his quality in my lifetime (I’m 30 this year – grim).
If you have a look at the goalkeepers we’ve had since the Premier League started – it is exceptionally dismal viewing. Loris Karius, Danny Ward, Adam Bogdan, Brad Jones, Doni, Diego Cavalieri, Charles Itandje, Scott Carson, Chris Kirkland, Jerzy Dudek, Pegguy Arphexad, Brad Friedel and David James represent pretty much every goalkeeper (give or take a couple who didn’t play much) to represent us since 1994/95 when the great Bruce Grobbelaar retired.
Now, I don’t know about you but that list brings back floods of memories that I wish had remained buried in my subconscious. We clearly haven’t recruited well in that position for the last quarter of a century.
Jerzy Dudek contributed heavily to our fifth Champions League win and will always be regarded fondly on Merseyside because of it, but he was never considered a solid No.1. But I think Pepe Reina and Sander Westerveld are the only two who could be named as ‘good’ Liverpool goalkeepers.
It is a position that we have always seemed to overlook in terms of importance to the team, settling for the cheaper options and focusing the majority of our cash on attacking positions as we strove to win the Premier League or reach the top four.
That is until last summer, when Jurgen Klopp and his recruitment team performed possibly the greatest recycling of cash in the history of the club.
The sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for £142m was used to buy Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, and that these two were integral in 97 league points and winning the Champions League can’t be stated loudly enough.
Jurgen Klopp then went big again when signing another defensively-minded player when he signed Fabinho from Monaco for £40m, and you just knew that this time around the Liverpool hierarchy were not playing any games in the transfer market.
Alisson played every minute of every Premier League game this season. He started well, had a bad hiccup against Leicester where we conceded a goal from his dallying on the ball, but he hasn’t tried anything similar since and – more importantly – he hasn’t let it affect his game.
This is where he differs from others. He has outstanding mental strength – if he makes a mistake, it’s out of his mind as soon as the game restarts. He isn’t unnecessarily flash, he simply makes the difficult saves look elementary and does it with solidity and confidence. It’s no fluke that he kept 21 Premier League clean sheets last season and won the Golden Glove.
For too long it was constantly highlighted by fans and the press – Liverpool needed a top-class goalkeeper to compete properly. In came Brazil’s No.1, and we haven’t looked back.