Alisson finds ‘relief for my soul and mind’ ahead of title charge

Goalkeeper on emotional return to Brazil and surprise response to his father’s death

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker  scores against West Brom last May. Photograph: John Powell/Getty Images

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker scores against West Brom last May. Photograph: John Powell/Getty Images

 

It is not Alisson’s style to bask in individual glory but when even Neymar Jr is impressed by the goal that defined Liverpool’s fight to the finish last season there is no alternative. The impact of the goalkeeper’s remarkable 95th-minute header at the Hawthorns in May reverberated throughout a long-awaited and emotional return home this summer.

“Everyone I spoke to in Brazil, within two minutes they were always mentioning the goal,” says Alisson, who may be uncomfortable with the acclaim but is acutely aware of what his winner at West Brom meant for Liverpool’s pursuit of Champions League qualification and their confidence for the new Premier League campaign. “Neymar, everybody . . . they were all so excited about it.

“In training at the Copa América I played up front one day. We had a session when we were just having fun so I went up front and scored some goals. That’s not a surprise for me now! But it was nice to hear what people thought about the goal. It was something amazing, even more special because we qualified for the Champions League for this season. It put a little bit of sauce on all of this. Now let’s try to win it this season and then it will be even more special.”

Alisson’s soaring header was the first competitive goal scored by a Liverpool goalkeeper in the club’s 129-year history. He followed it with clean sheets against Burnley and Crystal Palace as Jürgen Klopp’s team secured a third-place finish that, in the cold light of last season’s Premier League table, appears far more straightforward than the reality.

Then came the delayed Copa América, where Brazil were also dethroned as champions when losing the final against Argentina, but being back home meant much more to Alisson on a personal than professional level. It was the first time the 28-year-old had set foot in Brazil since his father, José Agostinho, drowned aged 57 near his holiday home in February.

Of being back home, Alisson says: “The first thing is, it was needed. It was really needed from my side and my family’s side. Being there seeing my mother, seeing my brother, seeing my grandmother, everybody, it was an emotional moment but it was good. It was a relief for my soul and my mind.

“I went to my farm where me and my father spent a lot of time together. It was emotional but it was good for me. It was not something bad. You suffer a little bit but it is something that I will have to deal with from now on. I will always miss my father. I will always miss the moments we had together as a family – he was always there – but it was good to see how my family is in this and how they help each other.

“They are helping my mother, they are helping my grandmother who is struggling a lot at this moment and it was good to see them and my friends. It was two years since the last time I went to my home town, so it was a long time. A very long time.”

In a moving and eloquent post-match interview at the Hawthorns, Alisson’s first appearance in front of the cameras since his father died, the keeper thanked the wider football community for helping him through his family’s ordeal. The response remains a comfort.

“The love of the club, and the football community, is something I will never forget. The world is changing and it is easier to reach someone on Instagram or with social media, but it was a surprise to me to see how many people were feeling something about me when the world was in a difficult moment and a difficult place. Now we have more hope for the future. I was surprised in a good way.

“What the club did for me wasn’t a surprise. From the first moment I arrived here they have supported me in every situation. But I really appreciate what they did, what the boss, Jürgen, did, Ray [Haughan], the team [operations] manager, all the players, all the staff. Me and my family, we felt really loved by everyone. From you, the press; all different clubs, all the other managers. Directors from other clubs. This is something that gives you a warm hug in that moment.”

Alisson’s close bond with Liverpool, where he has established himself as one of the world’s finest keepers since his £65 million arrival from Roma in 2018, was reinforced recently with a new six-year contract. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else. Neither me nor my family. I am so happy for making this deal with the club. I think it only shows the confidence they have in me and the trust I have in this club to be fighting for big things.”

Liverpool open at Norwich on Saturday buoyed by the 10-game unbeaten end to last season that vindicated Klopp’s belief in an injury-hit squad. Alisson also has an emphatic response to whether Liverpool retain the ability to wrestle back the title from Manchester City.

“Definitely. We are a really strong team with top players. The players we have here are pretty much the same ones who won the Premier League for the first time. What other teams are doing is not interesting for us; we have to focus on our goals, our job and try to do our best. I think we have a big chance to win the league again.

“It is really good to have Virgil [van Dijk] back, Joe [Gomez] back and Joël [Matip] back. They are a big part of this team. They are all top-class players, world-class players, and they will help the team a lot. Virgil was the best European player in 2019, so it is really important for us to have him back and get more consistency defensively and more talking. Also, he is really good in helping us on set pieces. This is a really strong point that we will have this season.”

Liverpool have addressed the centre-back shortage that cost them with the £36m signing of Ibrahima Konaté from RB Leipzig. With no other incomings at present, however, and City, Manchester United and Chelsea splashing the cash, the relative transfer inactivity of the 2019 champions has prompted accusations they are at risk of falling behind. The importance of stability has again been overlooked in some quarters.

“That is not something that gives us fear or anything else,” Alisson says. “The opposite. We know we have to work hard. Manchester City already has a strong side, Chelsea is already a strong side. They proved it by winning the Champions League and by winning the Premier League last season, so the fact they are getting new players is not something new for us.

“We know that we need to do our jobs otherwise we have no chance against those teams. All the Premier League teams are strong sides. The level of the league is getting higher and higher year by year and this is good for everybody, for the league and for the clubs. I am really happy that I play in this league.”

And can he score a few more goals in this league too? “No, no, no!” he says with a laugh. “I think I will stay focused on defending and saving and leave scoring goals to the boys. But if I am needed I will be there. There will be a little bit more pressure on me to score now.” - Guardian

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