Liverpool would not take on Real Madrid on Saturday night in Paris to lift their seventh European Cup were it not for Alisson, whose injury-time winner at West Brom 12 months ago catapulted the club into this season’s competition.
When Liverpool’s Dutch goalkeeping coach John Achterberg signaled Alisson for a 95th-minute corner at the Hawthorns in May last year, the visitors – fifth in the table – were held 1-1 by the already relegated Baggies, with the top four hopes hanging by a thread.
Seconds later, however, the 6ft 3in keeper had somehow managed to sneak into the box unnoticed to hit Trent Alexander-Arnold’s swinging corner with a perfect header close to the post to give Liverpool an unlikely but important win , who maintained his push Champions League qualification.
It was the first time in Liverpool’s illustrious history, which dates back to 1892, that a goalkeeper had scored a competitive goal for them and it was a rare moment of joy in an otherwise difficult season for him on and off the pitch.
The Brazilian’s father, Jose Agostinho Becker, who was also a goalkeeper, had drowned three months earlier at a dam near his holiday home in Lavras do Sul, Brazil, and Alison paid an emotional tribute to the 57-year-old after the game.
“I hope he was here to see it, I’m sure he’s celebrating with God by his side,” said Alisson, who was unable to attend the funeral due to coronavirus restrictions.
On the pitch, Alisson had made some uncharacteristic mistakes with the ball at his feet, most notably in Liverpool’s 4-1 drubbing against champions Manchester City at Anfield during a painful run of six straight home defeats between January and March that threatened to derail their Champions League challenge.
Twelve months later, however, the Reds’ historic quadruple bid would not have lasted longer than an attempt by a previous English club had it not been for the 29-year-old that season.
Alisson has kept 20 Premier League clean sheets and shared that season’s Golden Glove with fellow City man Ederson. Despite only appearing in one League Cup clash and starring understudy Caoimhin Kelleher in the final against Chelsea, he played a key role in Liverpool’s runs to both the FA Cup and Champions League finals.
In every department he is either good or top
It was Alisson’s two saves in the penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea earlier this month and his all-around performance at Wembley that gave the club their first FA Cup triumph since 2006.
“I thought he was outstanding. It was amazing,” said Achterberg after the win.
“There were a lot of man-of-the-match performances but he was one of them. He made important saves and then there was the way he got to the flanks.
“And then saving the penalty to get us through. Incredible performance.”
If Liverpool are to triumph in the French capital this weekend, the goalkeeper will need to be at their best against Real, unlike four years ago when the two clubs met in the final.
Alisson’s record Premier League clean sheet
Of course, on that occasion in Kyiv, it was Loris Karius’ two high-profile errors that propelled the club to a sixth European stint and ultimately saw Alisson join Merseyside.
Liverpool’s transfer committee, led by sporting director Michael Edwards, is known for doing extensive research before deciding whether to make a player move. They not only pay attention to the technical skills of the players, but also to their behavior off the field.
Back in 2013, Achterberg first came to the attention of Alisson from Doni, the former Brazilian goalkeeper for the Reds, while he was playing for Internacional in Porto Alegre.
Achterberg and his coaching staff continued to watch Alisson closely when he joined Roma in July 2016 and after carefully studying 20 of his Serie A games in 2017-18, Jurgen Klopp made his move when Roma opened up their asking price of £90m 60 million pounds lowered .
It was a decision that, along with Virgil van Dijk’s purchase last January, changed the fortunes of the club.
Without Alisson, Liverpool would not have become European champions for the sixth time in 2019. Not only did the keeper make a brilliant last-minute stop to slow down Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik and ensure they qualified against a tough group, but he also made several crucial saves en route to a final shutout against Tottenham.
However, it is not just Alisson’s one-on-one experience that sets him apart from other goalkeepers, although statistically he is the best in this regard, as shown on numerous occasions this season and again last Sunday when Wolves- Forward Hwang Hee-Chan rushed on goal only to be thwarted by the Reds’ No. 1.
But it’s also his reading of games that’s so important, particularly when it comes to crosses and through balls, as well as some outrageous spread bits that would put many top-flight outfield players to shame, as he and Ederson continue to set new standards today, a vital part of a modern goalkeeper .
“He’s really calm and has a clear head,” said Achterberg. “Nothing scares him. He’s an amazing person.
“He’s a big presence. The main thing is that he’s always calm and can change his speed in a split second. He has such great reactions, but it’s all about his decision making.
“He is a great all-round package in every department. In every department he is either good or top.”
Off the pitch, Alisson is also an influential voice in the dressing room, having been promoted to one of the club’s ‘six captains’ this season, while he is said to have played an integral role in the signing of veteran former Brazil international goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel, who belongs alongside Englishman Jack Robinson to the multinational coaching team at Achterberg.
Another area where Alisson excels, as he showed in the club’s most recent FA Cup final win over Chelsea, is in the penalty shootout.
If Saturday’s final results in a dreaded penalty shootout, Liverpool will be confident they have the right man to get them over the line and bring home a seventh European title.