On Thursday evening, shortly after completing his medical, Alisson put pen to paper on Merseyside, signing a contract to make himself Liverpool’s new number one and become the most expensive goalkeeper in football history.
His £67 million transfer shattered the mark set last summer when Manchester City signed Ederson, the man Alisson keeps out of the Brazil team, for £35 million. Prior to that, the record had been held for a decade and a half by Italian superstar Gianluigi Buffon.
The size of the fee Liverpool agreed with Roma for Alisson may have been astonishing, but among the least shocked would have been the man who defended the Juventus net for so long.
When asked if Alisson’s performances for Roma last year had come as a surprise, Buffon replied, “Surprised with Alisson? Only people who don’t understand the position of goalkeeper would be surprised.”
DESTINED FOR THE TOP
Speaking to TV channel Mediaset, Buffon revealed that he had already been watching Alisson during his time in Brazil with Internacional.
“I have kept an eye on him for two or three years and I noticed the tranquillity with which he administers games and how he makes difficult saves look simple. He makes the defence and the team feel very secure.”
That might be an unusual feeling for the Liverpool back line in their first few games next season, but it will certainly be a welcome one. The Champions League final against Real Madrid in May was confirmation, if any of us needed it, that Loris Karius was not up to the task of keeping goal at the top level.
After 51 minutes, the German attempted to throw the ball out to restart play but was caught by Karim Benzema, who deflected the ball into the back of the net. Seven minutes from the end, he dropped another clanger, letting in a long-range Gareth Bale effort that looked easier to stop than not.
Liverpool’s obvious need to replace Karius, as well as the premium that all Premier League clubs are now subject to, contributed to the enormity of the fee that the Scousers paid for the Brazilian’s services.
But it could still represent a prudent purchase in the long-term. Transfer fees are on an upwards trajectory and have been since Neymar moved to Paris Saint Germain for almost £200 million last summer. Alisson is already one of the world’s best ‘keepers and, at just 25, could be the Reds’ number one for the next decade.
Alongside the purchases of Alisson’s compatriot Fabinho and Guinea’s Naby Keita, it is a real statement of Liverpool’s intent to challenge for the Premier League and Champions League titles next term. All three of them have experience of European football and battling it out for titles.
Last year, Alisson was crucial in Roma’s run to the last four of Europe’s premier club competition, keeping clean sheets in games against the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
As alluded to in the question to Gigi Buffon above, those sorts of performances would not have been expected by all observers in Europe. Alisson had spent the 2016-17 campaign as backup to Wojciech Szczesny, playing only 15 times, all in the Europa League or Coppa Italia.
But the fact he was capable of filling the void left by the Polish shot-stopper came as no shock to those who had watched him from the other side of the Atlantic.
WHERE IT BEGAN
Alisson first came through at Internacional, a giant club from his home state of Rio Grande do Sul, following in the footprints – or “gloveprints” – of his older brother, Muriel, who also played 200 games in the Inter goalmouth.
The two are exceptionally close, and Alisson has described Muriel, now playing for Belenenses in Portugal, as “the most important person” in his life. When Alisson was coming through, they even competed for the number one jersey at the club they both supported as boys.
“We never stopped supporting one another,” Muriel told Correio24Horas in 2016, “regardless of who was in the first team. Being brothers is greater than that. The joy of one is the joy of the other. The sadness as well. I’m really grateful for having shared the same position as him.”
At the time, Brazilian World Cup winner Dida was also fighting for a place in the Inter team, making Alisson’s ability to hold onto the spot as a 21-year-old even more impressive.
After one of the younger man’s terrific displays last year in Italy, Dida told Omnisport that “Alisson is a great goalkeeper. He is very strong. He is confident and brave. I hope he can perform at his best because he is a great friend of mine.”
During that same period, Alisson was also called up to the Brazil squad for the first time, making his debut in a World Cup Qualifier against Venezuela in 2015 before going on to cement his spot in the first-team during the following year’s Copa America.
When current manager Tite came in in October 2016, he kept faith in the Roma man on the advice of legendary Brazilian ‘keeper and the Selecao goalkeeping coach Taffarel, despite the fact that he was second choice at his club. The decision was criticised by fans and journalists in Brazil, but Alisson immediately repaid Tite’s trust, putting in a series of solid displays.
Talking about that difficult period in 2017, Alisson told a press conference that, “I always dealt positively with the fans that criticised me. I know myself, how much I can give… I always looked forward to the moment in which I would get into the Roma first-team.”
Because of that time spent overcoming those doubts, he believes he is now “more experienced”, something which should stand him in good stead to pull on the Liverpool shirt in the Premier League come August.
From Buffon to Taffarel via Dida, the list of ‘keepers who rate Alisson highly should be some indication of the quality he possesses. Liverpool may have splashed out to secure their man, but they are getting one of the best.
Alisson has the physical size, technique, footwork and most importantly the mental strength to succeed in the English top flight. And if the Reds get into the latter stages of European competition in 2019, they will have a number one they can depend on.