Will Alisson be the architect of another Liverpool great escape?
It is the 36th game of their Premier League season and Liverpool, on a late charge towards the Champions League places, are away in the Midlands. Needing victory, they are drawing as the game enters the 95th minute. And then goalkeeper turns goalscorer. West Bromwich Albion suffered the indignity of conceding to Alisson in 2021. History is unlikely to repeat itself at Leicester on Monday, even if it falls on the eve of the second anniversary of the only goal ever scored by a Liverpool goalkeeper. But, once again, they are aiming for the improbable, encouraged by their memories.
“A lot of times when I look on Twitter for news, that goal appears in my timeline,” Alisson said. “This week I watched it already. It’s good, it made me feel good. It makes me think how crazy it is that I scored a goal. It was kind of a sign for us that something special was coming. Because I can be 100 times in the box, I don’t know if I will score again. I know now I can head a ball in a good way, but hopefully we are not going to need it again. I think this season we are having special moments, [Diogo] Jota’s goal is a really special one against Tottenham; last minute as well.”
Finish in the top four and Alisson may go down as the architect of another great escape, albeit in more conventional fashion. He has been overworked and outstanding. He entered the weekend with fifth most saves in the division and having prevented the most goals, according to goalkeeping statistics relating to the quality of opportunities.
“Sometimes the goalie performances comes when the team is not playing so good and conceding more chances,” he reflected. That has been the case this season; he is the frontrunner to be named Liverpool’s player of the year. He already has one memento; he was presented with a shirt with ‘100’ on the back by Jurgen Klopp, marking his century of Liverpool clean sheets.
“The goal is special but the clean sheets are better,” Alisson said. There are, he hopes, many more to come. “One hundred is a lot for me now but in comparison to the great goalies in Liverpool’s history it is not even 50 per cent of what they achieved. They got over 200 clean sheets.” He is the seventh goalkeeper to register 100 for Liverpool, but it may be a table even he cannot top. Not when Ray Clemence recorded 323 shutouts and Bruce Grobbelaar a further 267; it helped that Anfield greats made 665 and 628 appearances respectively.
“I don’t know if I can play as many matches as them,” said Alisson, currently on 229. “I think Ray had over 600 matches for Liverpool, but I’m already looking forward to the next 50 or 100 clean sheets, and for the next one in the next match we have. It would be special to be alongside them or to beat them, I admire a lot what the great goalies did, but I’m writing my own story here at Liverpool.”
That story is nowhere near its final chapter. Alisson is still only 30 and with a deal until 2027. His commitment stems from much more than a contract, however. Alisson’s father, Jose Agostinho Becker, drowned in 2021. Lockdown restrictions meant he was unable to return to Brazil. His Anfield family instead offered support.
“I never imagined to go through a moment like that in my life,” he recalled, a tear in the eye. “Nobody thinks about losing their Dad or Mum suddenly but so many people at that moment were losing loved ones in Covid times and I think the world was in a place where everybody was ready to show love for people. Not only at Liverpool, though the boys here at the club were amazing: I think they felt my pain together.
"I hope he was there to see it with God on his side celebrating" 👏
"I don't know how to celebrate!" 😂
A fantastic interview with Alisson, who dedicates his sensational last-minute goal to his father who passed away earlier this year 🙌 pic.twitter.com/4w2HsbaO16
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) May 16, 2021
“I took three days at home after my dad passed away and I was looking forward to coming back here, to this place, because I felt already the love. Not only here but from the football world, I was really touched. I received so many letters from managers, from clubs that I never imagined I would receive.”
A couple of months later, Alisson emerged in the West Brom box to score a goal that led Liverpool on a path that ended in the 2022 Champions League final, that almost brought a quadruple. Now, once again, there is the hope a difficult campaign can end on a high. “We are having similar challenges,” he said.
And if there is unlikely to be a similar solution, another Alisson header, his shutouts offer the prospect of further success. “Keeping clean sheets keeps you closer to victories,” he said. So, too, does his bond with Liverpool. “When I signed a long-term deal at this club, I thought a lot at this moment that everybody was there for me and I have this feeling that I want to be here for the club as well,” he said. “To keep making history, keep this atmosphere that we have as a family.”