By 90Min
September 08, 2019

Amid the strong cohort of Liverpool players in the running for his year's Ballon d'Or, Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker is one of the many hopefuls.

Should the 26-year-old claim the coveted award, he will be the first goalkeeper to win the prize since the legendary Russian Lev Yashin in 1963. Perhaps bizarrely, perhaps predictably, the position has been overlooked for decades but Alisson should not be written off as a contender and would be a worthy winner for myriad reasons. 

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The Brazilian's strong form in his debut season at Anfield after his big-money move from AS Roma helped Liverpool to an astonishing 97 points in the league, as well as their crowning Champions League glory in June. 

His record of 21 clean sheets was enough to earn him the league's Golden Glove award as he eradicated the only remaining Achilles Heel in Jurgen Klopp's side. In fact, by the summer, he had picked up a hat-trick of Golden Gloves by claiming awards in the Champions League and Copa America too.

You could point to a subsequent showreel of smart saves from his antics in 2018/19. However, making good saves are actually what you'd expect from any decent Premier League goalkeeper and would not make him a bona fide contender for the Balon d'Or.

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What stands Alisson out as a real contender is his overall game which has helped redefine what we've come to expect from top-class goalies. 

One example stands out amongst many from last season as a perfect summation of what the Brazilian has brought to Liverpool. Deep into a testing mid-week clash with Burnley at Turf Moor, the home side swung in a corner as they trailed 1-2 in stoppage time.

Liverpool fans would have collectively winced as a melee broke out in the box and half a dozen players in Claret shirts swarmed after the bouncing ball. Ben Mee somehow got his head on it and directed the ball towards the top corner.

In proceeding years with a procession of lesser keepers, this would have had a familiar and frustrating script for Liverpool supporters. This time they had Alisson. 

A fluorescent pink sleeve somehow appeared at full stretch to tip the ball on to the post. Alisson's save that night was excellent but what immediately followed was truly world-class. 

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Seconds later Burnley came again with another ball swung in from the right, which took a deflection off Mohamed Salah and angled dangerously towards the six-yard box. Alisson sprang into life, racing away from his goal, before out-jumping a Burnley attacker to claim the high cross with outrageous, commanding confidence. 

He then dashed to the edge of his box and bowled the ball out like a grenade to Daniel Sturridge to spring a counter-attack. Ten seconds later Liverpool had scored to make it 1-3 and win the match. 

It's a mad passage of play that perfectly encapsulates Alisson's abilities as a top-class keeper. Not only is he perfectly capable of the show-stopping saves, he is a monster between the sticks; a decisive presence that leaves no guesswork for the defenders in front of him.

He is also arguably the best in the world with his starting positions as the above example illustrates. An instinctive and decisive reading of a game means the Brazil international often takes up intelligent positions to either close down the space of an attacker or pluck the ball out of the air from unorthodox areas in the box. 

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Other goalkeepers, particularly at Liverpool prior to Alisson's arrival, simply would not have had the instinct or even the inclination to do what he does on a weekly basis with such stoic consistency. 

The final piece is, of course, that wonderful distribution. And it is here where Alisson, along with Manchester City's Ederson, have done so much to re-define their position and heighten our expectations from top-class modern goalkeepers. 

The former Roma man is able to play the ball out with near laser-guided trajectory. Whether the ball is at his feet or in his hands, Liverpool fans are confident he will find a player in red and contribute to Klopp's energetic, flowing pace of play. He is the embodiment of a sweeper keeper and a real asset to how the reds spring their lethal brand of attacking football.

You could, of course, argue that Alisson has reaped the benefits of having a fantastic, organised defensive unit in front of him to shield frequent danger. Yes, Virgil van Dijk is arguably the best centre-back Liverpool have signed in modern times. The same is certainly true of their left back Andrew Robertson. Any goalkeeper would do well enough with such elite operators helping him out. However, Alisson's ability has dramatically improved Liverpool's defensive displays. With the addition of the Brazilian to the fold, the Reds looked, at times, indomitable at the back as they swept aside anyone and everyone in their path. 

The Ballon d'Or would be a suitable reward for a keeper who has helped transform his team's fortunes.

While his self-identified best save against Napoli in the Champions League group stages was a real sliding doors moment for Liverpool, Alisson's performance against Barcelona at Anfield during their famous 4-0 semi-final win was equally superb. The Brazilian calmly faced up to a number of good chances from Los Cules that night to keep his side in the tie. He was also outstanding in the final against Spurs as he swatted away three good chances and marshalled his defence all night, refusing to let them drop their energy levels. 

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It would certainly not be a quirky, left of field award should Alisson see off completion from some of the best in the world to claim the Ballon d'Or. 

The best players deserve the best awards and perhaps it's now finally time to end the decades of under-appreciation for goalkeepers and give the award to the best in the business. 

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