BEST FOR LAST

SAVING THE

Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker aims to end a terrific first season with Liverpool on a high

BY CHRIS BURKE

A little over a year ago, Alisson Becker had a close-up view of the goals that took Liverpool into the UEFA Champions League final – all seven of them, as the rampaging Reds beat his Roma side in the last four. This season, the Brazilian goalkeeper has been at the opposite end of the pitch, and the only player to feature in every minute of Liverpool’s return to the final.

“Now that I’m playing here, I’ve experienced the amazing things we’ve achieved,” says the 26-year-old, perhaps one of the last pieces of a European Cup-winning jigsaw for the team he joined last summer, for what was briefly a world-record fee for a goalkeeper. Alisson has produced big saves at big moments, his stops as crucial as the goals scored by Mohamed Salah and Co – and none more so than his last-gasp effort to deny Arkadiusz Milik in December as Liverpool defeated Napoli 1-0 to reach the last 16. 

“The save against Napoli was pretty much the last touch of the ball and that save could be counted as a goal,” he explains. “Sometimes a save can feel as good as a goal. Sometimes if I make an important save, the fans celebrate as if a goal was scored. Nowadays the level of football is so high. More people understand the importance of a goalkeeper because one save can help get a result.

Alisson himself has long grasped that importance. “I think it could be to do with my DNA, my blood,” he says, his great-grandfather having been a keeper before him. “When I get to the final, I’ll be doing what I love.” Nevertheless, he started out as a midfielder, which might explain his skill on the ball – which has given Liverpool another dimension, helping them build from the back and offering defenders another passing option. 

“I always had coaches who allowed me to be free and try to help the team, not just with long balls but also working with the centre-backs,” he says. “In Brazil at that time, the culture of playing that way still didn’t really exist. Using the goalkeeper was seen as a big risk, but I like helping the team and helping defenders, supporting their work on the pitch.”

They appreciate his contribution too. Winner of the Premier League Golden Glove award for his 21 clean sheets in 2018/19, Alisson was also one of the heroes of Liverpool’s incredible comeback against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, making a string of saves in the 4-0 second-leg win. “That memory will be with me forever,” he says. “It’s a story I’ll be telling my children and grandchildren. I’m just hoping we can see this story through.”

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