It used to be that being a great Liverpool goalkeeper demanded mastery of the art of doing very little exceedingly well.
Alisson Becker is illustrating that being overworked is equally effective for proving world-class status, his spectacular form an anomaly in an erratic season for his team. On current form, he is the world’s best.
Alisson’s name reverberated around Anfield as the Liverpool World Cup contingent was offered a send-off by the Kop after their victory over Southampton. Alisson’s beard may have gone, but the capacity to navigate Jürgen Klopp’s side through hairy moments remains intact.
Liverpool had built a comfortable lead over Nathan Jones’ side, only for Alisson to produce a trio of exceptional saves to ensure his team-mates did not pay for a second half nap.
Samuel Edozie and Mohamed Elyounoussi suffered at the hands of Alisson’s weekly Peter Schmeichel impersonation, the No1 a colossal presence when dashing off his line and so courageous he gives the impression he would throw himself in front of a speeding bullet to protect three points.
Then Che Adams offered a knowing, appreciative glance when Alisson pushed aside a goal-bound header. With a less able keeper, Liverpool would have been the subject of another inquiry into sloppy defending.
“The second half was obviously Alisson’s,” admitted Klopp.
This has been a theme of the season.
A week ago it was Spurs’ Ivan Perisic cursing Alisson’s bravery when his deflection prevented a certain equaliser. West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen will testify to how intimidating the South American is after the penalty save in Liverpool’s 1-0 win in October, while Frank Lampard would have celebrated a Merseyside derby win in the first few weeks of the season but for a series of Alisson interventions.
He is so far ahead when it comes to identifying Liverpool’s player of the season, no matter how good everyone is after the World Cup it would be indecent to overlook the base Alisson has created for his side to make up ground on the top four.
An older generation of Kop match-goers will understandably argue that every keeper should be measured against the magnificence of Ray Clemence, but for the modern fans and pundits Alisson is Liverpool’s greatest ever goalkeeper, ending a sorry run of indifferent performers.
Like Clemence, his sphere of influence goes beyond shot-stopping. Clemence evolved the role of the ‘sweeper-keeper’ in the 1970s. Alisson is one of the new breed who can occasionally be a playmaker. Lest we forget, he has more assists than Jack Grealish over the last 18 months, his weight-perfect pass to Mohamed Salah against Manchester City in October the highlight.
He also scored one of the most consequential goals in Liverpool history at the end of the 2020-21 season. Without his late header against West Bromwich Albion at the end of the lockdown campaign there would have been no Champions League run last season.
He has been a talisman ever since.
Brazil head to Qatar as World Cup favourites partially because in Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson they possess the Peter Shilton and Clemence of South American football.
It is the misfortune of one that the only keeper in the tournament capable of keeping them out of the starting XI happens to be a team-mate.
Alisson is not the only Brazilian underlining his national coach Tite’s riches.
Top of a ‘must do’ list for any new Liverpool investor would be a new contract for Roberto Firmino, who shrugged off the disappointment of World Cup exclusion to head his side ahead after six minutes.
For all the talk about what new money might do to Klopp’s transfer kitty, it is squad retention that would be most profoundly affected. Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mané are among two players who – in an alternative financial landscape – would have been given the contract they desired. Talks with Salah would not have been so protracted in the two years before he renewed terms if Fenway Sports Group did not have to rely so much on algorithms to work out where cash should be directed.
Firmino may need to take advice from James Milner about the merits of a shortened contract and wage reduction to extend a career at one of the world’s biggest clubs – the midfielder celebrating an extraordinary 600th appearance at the weekend – but what a delight it would be if the Brazil striker could retain a role at Anfield until his mid-30s.
There are no such fears for his close friend in goal. Having only just turned 30, Alisson is peaking. It means that no matter what is going on in front of him, the foundation for a recovery is intact.