Jim Holden

Liver­pool’s record keeper

World Soccer - - Contents -

Lev Yashin was the poster boy of the World Cup: the in­com­pa­ra­ble goal­keeper, all in black, jump­ing high to his left to save a shot. It is an in­deli­ble im­age of football his­tory, and Rus­sia has never had a finer and more sig­nif­i­cant hero than the leg­end known as the “Black Spi­der”, a player who re­mains the only keeper to have won the Bal­lon d’Or.

So per­haps it wasn’t merely co­in­ci­dence that, within days of the tour­na­ment end­ing, Liver­pool smashed the world-record trans­fer fee for a goal­keeper by sign­ing Alis­son in a £67mil­lion deal from Roma.

Great keep­ers are gold dust. Their value is im­mense and a crazy truth of football is that this has rarely been re­flected in the money clubs were pre­pared to pay.

Alis­son’s fee more than dou­bled the pre­vi­ous record of £32m paid by Ju­ven­tus to ac­quire Gian­luigi Buf­fon some 17 years ago.

That is a mere bagatelle com­pared to the mon­ster in­fla­tion of trans­fer pay­ments for out­field play­ers in the past two decades.

Nev­er­the­less, many crit­ics were swift and loud in damn­ing Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp, ac­cus­ing him of wildly over-pay­ing for a goal­keeper. But they ob­vi­ously don’t know their football his­tory. Klopp does.

There are count­less ex­am­ples of how cru­cial goal­keep­ers have been to glory. For ex­am­ple, the most im­por­tant sign­ing Brian Clough ever sanc­tioned at Not­ting­ham For­est was a then mam­moth £250,000 deal for Eng­land’s Peter Shilton.

Within a year For­est had won the league ti­tle, Shilton con­ced­ing only 18 goals in 37 matches. The next two sea­sons they won the Euro­pean Cup.

Alex Fer­gu­son has al­ways un­der­stood the di­a­mond value of a world-class keeper and so much of Manch­ester United’s rise to dom­i­nance was due to Peter Sch­me­ichel.

Ju­ven­tus have surely never spent more wisely than their world record for Buf­fon, who was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing the club win 11 Serie A ti­tles be­fore departing this sum­mer.

Even at the age of 40, Buf­fon was in­stantly ac­quired by Paris Saint-Ger­main, a club of moun­tain­ous am­bi­tion. They hope the old man can win them the Cham­pi­ons League.

Liver­pool’s prime am­bi­tion is to win the Premier League for a first time in 28 years. It is the most bar­ren spell with­out the ti­tle in the club’s en­tire his­tory.

Long be­fore the hap­less er­rors by Loris Kar­ius in the Cham­pi­ons League Fi­nal, Klopp knew that a world-class keeper had to be brought to An­field. He knows his his­tory and he had also seen the pro­found im­pact on Manch­ester City last sea­son when they paid more than £30m to sign Eder­son, the fi­nal and se­ri­ously cru­cial piece in Pep Guardi­ola’s jig­saw.

Eder­son is Brazil­ian but is only the sec­ond­choice for his coun­try and stayed on the bench at the World Cup.

Brazil be­lieve their finest man with the gloves is Alis­son, a num­ber one whose com­po­sure is of­ten re­mark­able. A quick search of the web will un­cover the mo­ment last sea­son in a Serie A match against Cro­tone where he did the ”som­brero” trick in his own area to go past an op­po­nent.

This is the sublime skill beloved of Ronald­inho in which a player flicks the ball over his op­po­nent and runs round to col­lect it again. It may seem ex­trav­a­gant and more than a touch crazy, yet the Roma tifosi adored Alis­son for it.

Roma coach Euse­bio Di Francesco has claimed that Alis­son is “the goal­keeper of the fu­ture”, but more ac­cu­rately we might re­flect that pay­ing proper trans­fer fees for keep­ers is the fu­ture.

The sum­mer has been full of spec­u­la­tion about them, in­clud­ing Eng­land’s ad­mirable new­comer Jordan Pick­ford, who was such a rev­e­la­tion in Rus­sia. Real Madrid have been ac­tively chas­ing the sig­na­ture of Chelsea and Bel­gium keeper Thibaut Courtois, an­other to per­form with dis­tinc­tion at the World Cup. If they are un­able to get him, an­other likely tar­get is Hugo Lloris of Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur and new global cham­pi­ons France.

Yes, per­haps it isn’t merely co­in­ci­dence, with the mem­ory of Yashin in mind and the sight of a keeper as the World Cup-win­ning cap­tain, that the ma­jor football clubs are now ready to splash good cash for a No1.

Roma coach Euse­bio Di Francesco has claimed that Alis­son is “the goal­keeper of the fu­ture”

World record...Liver­pool paid £67mil­lion this sum­mer for Roma’s Brazil­ian goal­keeper Alis­son

Jim HOLDEN AT THE HEART OF THE GAME

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