Long Reads

Alisson Becker – Putting Brazilian Goalkeepers on the Map

Brazil is invariably one of the largest contributors when a list of the top players is compiled. Over the decades, the nation has produced some incredibly talented footballers like Pele, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and more. Yet, this success appears to have had a detrimental effect on the quality of goalkeepers who come out from the country. For a nation that has consistently produced top players in each generation, it is a surprise to see that only a few goalkeepers like Gilmar, Taffarel, and Dida would make it to the list. However, they may not stand on par with some of the greatest goalkeepers that the world has seen.

One man who is on a mission to change this status would be Liverpool’s Alisson Becker. The goalkeeper was signed from Roma in 2018 for a whopping £65 million. Yet, few went on to question the transfer fee, which created a new world record for goalkeepers, paid by Liverpool. Alisson had been consistently delivering for Roma in so many ways and he appeared to be the perfect fit for Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp.

Move to Anfield

Alisson has slowly started establishing himself as a regular in the Brazilian national team when Liverpool came calling for his services. After years of struggle in the search for a consistent man between the sticks, Liverpool had taken the patient and cautious approach before zeroing in on Alisson Becker. The likes of Pepe Reina had been excellent only for a handful of the campaign. Furthermore, Liverpool had just suffered frequent disappointments in the Premier League and Champions League owing to the duo of Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius being far from the best. After back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the Premier League and a loss in the Champions League final owing to a direct goalkeeper mistake, Liverpool decided to plunge ahead with Alisson Becker.

After starting his career with Internacional when he was only 10, Alisson Becker was able to make his much-awaited debut in Brazilian football in 2013. From there, it did not take long for the player to attract attention from Europe’s top clubs. Despite being young, Alisson was already competing against one of the high-profile Brazilian goalkeepers, Dida, for a spot in the starting line-up. Invariably, the new kid on the block was able to come out successful and this was a sufficient signal to European clubs that he had what it takes to be a success at the top-level.

A move to Roma came about in 2016 and little did the Italian club know that they were about to make a handsome profit on the player. After having signed him for just €7.5 million, Roma would go on to sell him for an incredible €72.5 million in less than two years.

This astronomical increase in valuation is not down just to the Brazilian earning the nickname of ‘Messi of goalkeepers’ – as per former goalkeeping coach at Roma, Roberto Negrisolo. As a Brazilian, the ex-Internacional is surprisingly gifted with his ability on the ball. His rise to prominence comes at a time when many managers were starting to focus on goalkeepers who were not just mere shot-stoppers. An increasing percentage of managers were starting to appreciate possession-based football and a goalkeeper who is good on the ball is vital to this style. Anyone who has watched Alisson play would find it difficult to dismiss the statements from Negrisolo.

What Makes Alisson Great?

Often, the success of a goalkeeper would often be determined by the way they command the penalty box during set-piece situations apart from their shot-stopping abilities. The Premier League greats like Petr Cech, Edwin van Der Sar, Peter Schmeichel, and more were able to enjoy a lot of successes as goalkeepers with this opinion. Yet, the new age goalkeeper has to almost integrate with the outfield players and this is where Alisson Becker excels with his ability to bring the ball out of play. The ex-Roma goalkeeper also turned out to be an exceptional find when it comes to distribution skills, as his quick release often helped Liverpool capitalise on the pace of players like Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

It did not become a huge surprise that Liverpool won the Champions League in the goalkeeper’s first season at the club. This was a squad that almost won the title in the previous summer if not for goalkeeping mistakes. Alisson had finally proven that he was the missing link in the jigsaw puzzle. The Brazilian would go on to achieve even more success, as he guided Liverpool to the first-ever Premier League title. For years, this had been the one elusive trophy for the Reds, who had enjoyed great domination in the domestic league championships during the 1980s.

A lot of consistency from across the team is required to win the Premier League, whereas outstanding performances from certain players in certain games can often result in a team going close to the Champions League honour. After having won the Champions League to prove his quality and justify his transfer fees, Alisson Becker had a solid 2019-20 campaign to help Liverpool win the first league title in more than 30 years.

Even as he was picking up a lot of successes with Liverpool, his presence and stature within the Brazilian national team has also been growing. In the two years after making the move to Liverpool, Alisson became the first choice for the Selecao and he played a crucial role in the Copa America 2019 success. He continues to have a strong competition in the form of Manchester City’s Ederson for the national team places, but he remains a strength to the South American giant.

Alisson has been able to pick up a Champions League, Premier League, and Copa America title even before he hit 30. Since the very top goalkeepers have been able to play until even 40, it is frightening to think the impact that this Brazilian will have on the list of all-time great goalkeepers from South America.

He’s also one of the few goalkeepers to have scored in the Premier League, with a dramatic winner at West Brom in 2021.

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