Welcome to World Class: Alisson Becker

Max Cooper
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson is world class
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson is world class / Matt Burt/Minute Media
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In a world where we have access to millions of videos and endless footage at our very fingertips, it's becoming increasingly difficult to separate genuine world class players from 15-second wonders.

Sure, there are many, many players capable of putting in top drawer performances at any given time, but sustained brilliance and possessing all of the traits to be truly world class is quite another.

A brief MAX COOPER SKILLS - THE NEXT LIONEL MESSI? YouTube search may trick you into believing this writer is in fact the second coming of Barcelona's greatest ever player, when in reality he may have accidentally planted a deep cross beyond a particularly short goalkeeper on a windy day.

Champions League Football GIF by BT Sport - Find & Share on GIPHY

The point being, no matter how high or low the level, we can still be deceived by glimpses of brilliance.

So, we can all be forgiven for not batting an eyelid when the unknown Alisson Becker took over from Wojciech Szczęsny as AS Roma's number one goalkeeper for the 2017/18 campaign. While a huge club in terms of size and fanbase, I Giallorossi were realistically miles away from the level required to win the scudetto, and not much was expected of Eusebio Di Francesco's men in the Champions League, either.

So, for the rest of Europe, the emergence of an untried rookie in his second season at a middling side would have understandably flown under the radar. It didn't take long for regular Serie A viewers to stand up and pay attention, though.

Often kitted out from head to toe in a mysterious, all black goalkeeping strip, the Brazilian shot-stopper resembled Spiderman wearing the dark Symbiote Costume which you could unlock on the PlayStation.

And his reflexes were equally as spine-tingling. What immediately stood out about the developing goalkeeper was how capably he covered the basics of his role. His positioning, aerial command, awareness of his surroundings and confidence between the sticks gave his backline a calming boost. No jitters with a new man behind them, Alisson knew what he was doing.

So, if the 'basics' were simply second nature, what does that make the more difficult saves? Well, they became his basics. Alisson was so fast off his line that a one-on-one passed the striker by in the blink of an eye, as he threw himself in the line of fire before his adversary could even pop off an effort of note.

Shots fired with venom and swerve in his direction were gobbled up, smothered and held. No parrying. And if there was an extraordinary missile that did need palming away, he made sure the ball never rebounded into danger.

Calm, calm and calm again. In terms of out and out shot-stopping, there has seldom been better than Alisson.

But while these are all wonderful achievements for a promising goalkeeper, this skillset is not likely to catch the attention of Europe's attentive eye. You need to put in a performance that really is world class. And so, I Giallorossi headed to Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League Round of 16 in mid-February 2018, having topped a group that included both Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.

For Roma, it was the type of game they have been known to choke on in the past. High expectations, low results. So a good performance and outcome was needed to get fans believing in this European dream.

Luckily, the Italian giants had a giant of their own between the sticks that day. The final score read as a 2-1 win for the visitors, but it could have been much, much worse. Roma dominated the opening stages, carving out plenty of opportunities until finally drawing first blood on the stroke of half-time.

But here came the wobble. Hello darkness, my old friend. I Giallorossi lost complete control of the game, sat back and allowed an onslaught toward their rookie goalkeeper. It didn't take long for the hosts to find their breakthrough, either.

Flying saves
Flying saves / SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images

Alisson was left completely exposed by his defence, and Facundo Ferreyra did the rest with the whole goal to aim at. 1-1. But next came his moment. At least, one of them.

As Shakhtar pushed and Roma crumbled, Alisson stood tall, even while those around him lost their heads. He displayed the character and unwavering mentality which had been missing from this Roma side for a couple of decades.

A ball was cut back across the penalty area, and the defence could merely watch as it fell to Marlos, lurking just in front of the penalty spot. Big danger.

The forward took aim and fired hard and high, looking to beat a sprawling Alisson, who was returning to the centre from his front post. The shot was launched with such ferocity, that most goalkeepers would have only been able to watch as it whistled beyond them.

But this was the day we learnt about the Brazilian's strong, steel-like wrists. He flung a right paw into the air, and met the meteorite head on. His hand didn't flinch, as he somehow repelled the ball to safety, and Roma escaped.

Unbelievably, that wasn't his best save of the season - it wasn't even the best save he made in that match.

Shakhtar captain Taison fancied his chances from range against the Brazil international, and sent a swerving, dipping strike crashing towards Alisson's top left corner. Now this, was curtains.

Yet again, he said no.

Alisson flew to his left, outstretched the longest left arm in football, and flicked the ball around the post with a firm glove. What makes the save so exceptional, is how easy he made it appear. Most goalkeepers wouldn't have got a fingertip close to that strike, yet he managed to meet it with his palm and generate enough power to deflect it out of harm's way.

At this point, Shakhtar knew it'd take something incredible to conquer this man mountain. Unfortunately for Roma, they conjured the impossible, and beat Alisson with a free-kick so vicious that it dipped and flew home off the crossbar.

A 2-1 defeat for I Giallorossi, but they were aware it could have been 'tie over'. It had also become clear, that their goalkeeper was simply too good for this team, and while Roma fans longed for him to stay, stifling his brilliance would have been cruel.

As it was, that first leg loss was the launch pad for one of the greatest Champions League runs in history, as Di Francesco's men overturned the deficit, before producing the most remarkable of comebacks against Barcelona, and almost repeating their heroics against Liverpool in the semi-finals.

Alisson celebrates Roma's dramatic comeback against Barcelona
Alisson celebrates Roma's dramatic comeback against Barcelona / Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images

In the end, the Reds just about limped over the line to reach the final, but a 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid, combined with a Loris Karius disaster-class, inspired Jurgen Klopp to spend €70m on the missing piece of the jigsaw.

One Champions League trophy and a long-awaited Premier League title later, the German's decision has been easily vindicated, and Alisson's genius has been justly rewarded. As for Roma, they've endured two miserable years trying to find the 28-year-old's successor.

But in the end, it's a near impossible task to replace world class - a category that Alisson seamlessly falls into.

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