Caoimhín Kelleher’s Liverpool future and current role as Alisson’s deputy ‘octopus’

Jack Bryant wonders what the future holds for Liverpool’s young Irish goalkeeper, with his path to the Reds’ first team seemingly blocked by one of the best shot-stoppers on the planet.

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In the summer of 2018, Liverpool signed Alisson Becker for a fee of £56.25m, making him the most expensive goalkeeper ever at the time.

The Brazilian’s arrival spelled the end of several issues between the sticks in recent years. Since the sale of Pepe Reina in 2013, Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have been signed but both failed to ever truly convince in the side.

The signature of a world-class keeper was vital – the Reds went on to lift the Champions League and Premier League with Alisson playing a key role in both campaigns.

Having signed a new contract until 2027, the spot between the sticks is safe for most of the next decade – but what does this mean for Caoimhín Kelleher?

The Irishman has made 11 appearances since his debut in 2019 – over half coming in domestic cups with three more in the Premier League and the other two in the Champions League.

He has had plenty of opportunities for a young ‘keeper, but the Irishman recently turned 23 and is only six years younger than Alisson – making the chances of him becoming Liverpool’s number one in the near future very slim.

There have been no signs that Kelleher has been growing unhappy with this situation, but it’s not impossible that this might change in the future. If it does, then what could Liverpool do to appease him?

Alisson will always be the first-choice in Premier League and Champions League matches, but Jürgen Klopp could provide the Cork-born keeper with game time in the six group stage matches and the occasional Premier League start against bottom-half opposition.

Whether that would be enough is up for debate, and only the Irishman would know, but it is unlikely Klopp could offer any more minutes than that as he chases titles year after year.


It would be worth the young man staying at Anfield because the club are in such a good position, and he has the chance to be part of something special for years to come. But the game time dilemma goes beyond club football.

The 23-year-old made his international debut for the Republic of Ireland against Hungary in June coming on as a substitute at half-time, but he did not make his first start until October against Qatar and has only featured in one of Ireland’s seven games since.

The issue involves the player he replaced in Budapest, Gavin Bazunu. The Portsmouth shot-stopper is younger at 19 and plays in League One, but despite that he has received 10 international caps compared to Kelleher’s two.

Game time for their respective clubs is the difference – Bazunu has played 16 out of 19 league games for Pompey this season, and also made 32 appearances for Rochdale last season.

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The Manchester City trainee’s game time may be in the third tier, but it’s given him the opportunities to impress and become Stephen Kenny’s number one choice.

With Alisson signing a new deal and the Ireland number one spot up for grabs, Kelleher may feel he’ll have to leave Anfield for game time to further his career for club and country.

He is not the first Liverpool ‘keeper to face this dilemma. Danny Ward also made his international debut in his early 20s while he was a backup for the Reds. His first Wales start came in March 2016, but he only received four caps in the time between then and his transfer to Leicester City in the summer of 2018.


The 28-year-old may not be the Foxes number one, thanks to Kasper Schmeichel, but regular minutes in the cups has led to 20 caps since his Anfield departure.

Kelleher’s situation is clear – Alisson is not going anywhere so he may need to leave Anfield to become the Republic of Ireland number one, but the 23-year-old could sacrifice winning major trophies and possibly becoming the club’s first-choice ‘keeper one day if he leaves.

This situation may not even be on the Irishman’s mind right now, but one day he may have to make a big decision.

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