After months of speculation, Liverpool finally made their move and have agreed a world record fee of around £67 million with AS Roma for goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
It seems a large amount for a player who is almost 26 years old yet has only 81 league appearances to his name. Indeed, a little over a year ago he wasn’t even in the Roma side, he was sat on the bench backing up former Arsenal man Wojciech Szczesny.
Those are certainly red flags, but it could just be that he’s a late developer or he wasn’t given an opportunity. Liverpool have a glaring need at the position and Jurgen Klopp seemingly has eyes only for the Brazil international — who kept Ederson on the bench for his country at the World Cup — which should ease supporters’ concerns over the fee. There are a lot of cheaper goalkeepers out there and for Klopp to refuse to contemplate signing any of them is quite the vote of confidence in Alisson.
Since getting his chance to shine the Brazilian has made rapid progress for club and country. He enjoyed an impressive first full season as Roma’s No. 1 and is well established in his national side, but he is still relatively inexperienced in goalkeeping terms. English football will also present vastly different challenges to what Alisson is used to in Italy.
Klopp is clearly convinced though and he first tried to sign the Roma man midway through last season. A January transfer never materialised but it seems like Liverpool’s patience may finally be about to pay off.
There are some similarities here with the Virgil van Dijk transfer. As with Alisson, Klopp was prepared to wait to get his man rather than compromise and move for a secondary target. Splashing £75m, Klopp made Van Dijk the world’s most expensive defender and he’s prepared to make Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper. Klopp is not a manager who throws money around lightly, so when he spends big it tells you he is completely sure about the player.
Where this deal would differ to Van Dijk is in the risk factor. The Dutchman was proven quality and would have commanded a place in virtually any side in Europe. While the fee was high it became apparent fairly quickly that it was not going to weigh Van Dijk down and, as the weeks went by, it was mentioned less and less.
Alisson is not the “sure thing” Van Dijk was — not least because he has no experience of English football — but if he is as good as Klopp believes him to be it would put the Reds in a very strong position to challenge for honours this season.
Seeing Klopp addressing the biggest area of concern will be a boost for the players and will re-energise the supporters. There is much for supporters to feel excited about as the goalkeeping situation was casting a huge dark cloud over everything.
The thought of starting the season with Loris Karius in goal was causing sleepless nights for many a fan and even if Alisson does not arrive Karius cannot under any circumstances be considered for selection this season. It would not be fair to him, his teammates or the supporters.
If, as has been widely suggested, Klopp was prepared to keep faith with Karius in the event that Alisson proved to be out of reach, he must surely have realised now that simply isn’t possible. The position of Karius is untenable and has become a circus.
Perhaps Klopp thought that his young compatriot could ride out the storm, but if that was his thinking then recent events will have shown him that isn’t how this will play out.
Karius had a lot of sympathy from fans after what happened in Kiev but much of that sympathy disappeared when he posted a self-indulgent, professionally shot video of himself training in California. There was already a bullseye on his back and this total lack of self-awareness only served to make things worse.
He removed that video but the horse had already bolted. Within a couple of days a clip of him letting a shot go through him in a warm up before a preseason game went viral and had well over a million views. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t have even been noticed as the camera was focused on the pitchside presenters and Karius was merely in the background. And besides, it’s a warm up. In preseason. Against Chester.
There is nothing normal about the situation Karius is in though. In the next preseason game he made a dreadful mistake that allowed Tranmere Rovers to score, prompting one Tranmere player to shout a mouthful of expletives at the keeper.
We later discovered that the player in question, Ben Tolitt, is a Liverpool fan who was so angry at the ineptitude of Karius that he couldn’t even celebrate a goal for the team he played for. It’s an absolute circus and a massive distraction to everybody, but that would all end with the arrival of Alisson.
Concerns over whether Alisson is worth the money are valid but the key elements here are that Klopp clearly has no doubts about him and that the club, just as they did with Van Dijk, are backing their manager’s judgement with hard cash.
If this deal goes through, Liverpool are to be applauded for thinking big and showing once more that after years of being pushed around by their rivals they are now prepared to compete at the very top end of the market again.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC’s Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.