The whistle had just blown for the final time when the mantra started. You could hear it rumble from the far corner of the Anfield Road and, soon, it had rolled around the stadium.
‘Al-is-son!’ they bellowed on repeat, faster and louder, as the man in question found himself being consumed in one of those Jurgen Klopp bear hugs. ‘Al-is-son! Al-is-son! Al-is-son!’
It was a moment that made you stop and take note. There is nothing unusual about a player being singled out by the crowd but the praise for Alisson had a tone that combined reverence and adoration.
The praise for Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson had a tone that combined reverence and adoration
Arkadiusz Milik appeared ready to incinerate Liverpool’s ambitions of reaching the last 16
The simple explanation for it all was the 26-year-old goalkeeper’s match-defining moment. Deep into injury time, Napoli substitute Arkadiusz Milik appeared ready to incinerate Liverpool’s ambitions of reaching the Champions League knockout phase.
There he was, eight yards out with no defenders around, ready to equalise and make it 1-1, but Alisson swamped the Poland striker and made a save of huge importance. The speed at which the Brazilian reacted and the composure he showed took the breath away.
But the deeper reason for the noisy praise was the realisation that Liverpool, at long last, have a No 1 for whom the tag ‘world class’ sits comfortably.
Alisson swamped the Poland striker and made a save of huge importance for the Reds
Since Bruce Grobbelaar’s pomp in the late 1980s, only Pepe Reina has got in the vicinity of such a description.
For too long, goalkeeping calamities have held Liverpool back. The pursuit of the Premier League in 1997 evaporated when David James started to malfunction, while the 2018 Champions League final will forever be associated with the traumas of Loris Karius.
Had Klopp continued to show faith in Karius, whose presence made the crowd and his colleagues jumpy, and not addressed the situation this summer it would have been irresponsible and counterproductive. Managers cannot be loyal to players who halt progress.
Since Bruce Grobbelaar’s pomp, only Pepe Reina has got in the vicinity of world class
Fortunately for Liverpool, Alisson was the man Klopp wanted. He had decided before the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Kiev that something needed to be done and talks with AS Roma, which had started last January, resumed.
Alisson first came to Liverpool’s attention when he was playing for Internacional in Brazil five years ago. John Achterberg, the Anfield club’s goalkeeping coach, had been tipped off about Alisson but there was no possibility of signing him at that time as he would never have secured a work permit.
Alisson grew up in Novo Hamburgo, idolising his older brother Muriel who was also a goalkeeper. His mother had played in goal for her school handball team and his great grandfather was another to stand between the posts. This position, clearly, was his destiny.
Had Jurgen Klopp continued to show faith in Loris Karius it would have been irresponsible
When Alisson moved to Italy in the summer of 2016 one of his first starts was against Liverpool in a friendly in St Louis. Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter, who spearhead the recruitment team at Anfield, continued to scout him extensively. They knew he had everything to become a success.
Their judgment has been spot on, as thus far Alisson has been so very good. From the moment he started training with Klopp’s squad, at a camp in southern France, his new team-mates quickly realised that the level of quality behind them had gone up several notches.
It was primarily down to the way he uses the ball. His first meaningful action for Liverpool was to hit a 60-yard left-footed pass to Trent Alexander-Arnold in the fourth minute of a friendly against Napoli in Dublin on August 5 and Alisson has been impressing ever since.
John Achterberg, the Anfield club’s goalkeeping coach, had been tipped off about Alisson
‘Goalkeeper is a very influential position in the team and that is being recognised now,’ Alisson said in September. ‘If you think about it, any error that we make can be fatal for the team. It can lead to a goal and cause a defeat.’
Alisson is not immune to errors. He made a spectacular gaffe, through a botched Cruyff turn, at Leicester on September 1 that led to a goal but that has been his only false step. In the last fortnight, his performances have gone up several levels.
His quick thinking has led to Liverpool scoring counterattack goals against Fulham and Burnley, while his decision to race out and take a short free-kick against Everton led to Divock Origi’s dramatic winner. Why else did Klopp run on the pitch to swamp him, rather than the goalscorer, with a hug?
But his main job is to keep the ball out of the net and, with 12 clean sheets already, he is making the £64.6million it took to sign him look like inspired business.
‘Now we know more about Alisson,’ said midfielder Gini Wijnaldum. ‘We have a lot of clean sheets and the saves he makes are really crucial. The moment he makes the saves — and how he makes the saves — wins us games.’
It is also making him an idol. The thunderous reaction against Napoli confirmed as much.