Alisson Becker has been a game-changing signing for Liverpool. Here, the world’s second most expensive goalkeeper talks risk, family influence, and how he relaxes away from the pitch have no idea how Ali made that save!’ Those were the understandably animated words of Jürgen Klopp after a Champions League game against Napoli in December when Alisson Becker had made a crucial stop in the last seconds to ensure Liverpool progressed to the knockout rounds. The previous week the goalkeeper had done something similar at the same stage of a crucial league fixture away to Burnley. On that occasion, he used his fingertips to claw away a Ben Mee header. More recently, he made a point-blank save against Everton, made a crucial intervention at Old Trafford, kept Barcelona at bay at Anfield… you get the idea. In fact, type Alisson’s name into YouTube and you’ll be greeted with plenty of showreels highlighting his best displays. That ability to make big interventions at vital moments is surely what the role of being the man between the posts is all about. And the 26-year-old has been catching the eye since making his senior debut with Internacional in his homeland back in 2013 and picking up the man-of-the-match prize. “It’s always nice when you make an important save in the last minute,” he says of such stops. “You are always the last man and you can never make errors as they can be fatal. You must be level-headed” he says. At the same time, though, the man from the southeastern area of Brazil never dwells on any moments for too long. “I try to save my emotions for after the game. I try to make sure I’m switched on straight after I make a stop, in case I need to make any more.” Such a mindset and his refusal to think about anything that has gone before during a match is surely part of what makes the world’s second most expensive keeper so effective. Alisson, who signed from Roma in a £65m deal, doesn’t replay incidents in his mind while playing. Instead, he quickly refocuses, and that approach applies toboth the good and bad moments. Naturally, as with any keeper, there are times when he has been embarrassed. He faced criticism after the ball squirmed out of his grasp against Manchester United in December. This followed his high-profile error away at Leicester City during the early months of his LFC career. With the Reds holding a two-goal lead at the time he attempted to turn away from Kelechi Iheanacho only to be dispossessed and caught out of position as the ball ended up in the unguarded net.
Jordan Pickford has waited years to get to the top – but this summer he turned himself into a national hero in an instant. Calling something a journey has become one of the sport’s biggest clichés in recent years but plottingPickford’s career stop-offs on a map and it becomes clear that his is one like very few others. And it’s a measure of the impact he has had at every club on his route to the top that when his left hand defied Carlos Bacca in England’s nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out against Colombia, celebrations were sparked from Darlington to Burton, and Alfreton to Carlisle. Football backwaters to some, it was away from the bright lights of the Premier League that Pickford forged the kind of mentality that has turned him from a promising tyro with Sunderland into one of the world’s most respected goalkeepers. And missing out on a World Cup final is just another learning experience for a young keeper who gets better with each passing game. “You always think about what might’ve been,” he says. “But I also think you learn from that and get better as a group. You can always take something from the negatives and as a group, we always want to get better after a defeat and we saw the reaction against Spain and Croatia. ”The outpouring of adulation that Pickford has experienced ever since is a world away from the scene that greeted him at Darlington in January 2012. With only one full-time member of staff, it was a rude awakening for a goalkeeper still in his teens. Survival was the name of the game.“It was my first taste of first-team football when I went out to Darlington, in the National League, at the age of 17,” he says. “They were struggling and I was asked if I wanted to go there and help them out. My coach thought I was getting beyond the U18s football I was playing with Sunderland and I ended up playing nearly 20 games for them and it was quality. “I really enjoyed it, it was a great experience for me, despite the team getting battered every week.”