Liverpool look set to fix a long-standing problem – at considerable financial cost – with the impending arrival of Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
A €75m deal has been agreed between Liverpool and Roma for the 25-year-old’s services, with only personal terms and a medical keeping Alisson from becoming the most expensive goalkeeper of all time by some distance.
A deal such as this one comes with considerable risk. For starters, Alisson has spent just one season as the undisputed number one for a top-level European team. Granted. he packed plenty of experience into that year, earning considerable praise for his performances (both domestic and European) and representing Brazil in their run to the World Cup quarter-finals, but is still technically just the one year to use as a significant sample size.
However, there is a reason that Liverpool are going all out to sign Alisson, for both the player himself and what he represents.
Alisson, was, by all accounts, one of the best goalkeepers in Europe last season. Not since Pepe Reina in his heyday could Liverpool legitimately claim to have that level of stopper in their squad, and even then the Spaniard was a blip in the Premier League era. David James, Brad Friedel, Sander Westerveld, Jerzy Dudek, Scott Carson, Chris Kirkland, Simon Mignolet, Brad Jones, Loris Karius – all tested and groomed as Liverpool’s number one, and all eventually deemed not to be good enough.
Klopp has defended Karius to the hilt – he defended him after the young goalkeeper’s shaky Anfield beginnings, he defended him after the costly Champions League errors, he even felt the need to defend his compatriot after another blunder in a friendly against Tranmere last week – but he knew that this could not go on.
He knew that he could not keep waiting for the next time he had to stand in front of Karius after another error; Karius may not have made one for the next few months, but the anticipation would always be there, and that can be just as damaging for everyone.
Reports over the weekend suggested that Klopp could turn to Danny Ward to take the number one spot for the new season, but that was never going to be the answer. Ward, for all of his ability, hasn’t done enough to force his way into Klopp’s plans so there was little to suggest that throwing the Welsh international in at the deep end was going to be a viable one.
For all of the good work being carried out in virtually every other area of the pitch, to have such instability regarding the goalkeepers would be remarkably counterproductive. What if Ward was not up to it? Would Simon Mignolet suddenly have found himself back in favour, or would it be Karius again in a never-ending rotating door of goalkeeping mediocrity?
Such uncertainty is hardly conducive to a successful season, so something seismic had to be done in order to finally end the debate.
This is a huge statement of intent and a strong show of faith in Klopp by owners Fenway Sports Group. As was the case with Virgil van Dijk in January, FSG trust Klopp enough that they believe that his targets will raise Liverpool to the next level, regardless of initial financial cost. It has paid dividends with Van Dijk (to the point where the £75m fee is rarely mentioned anymore), and they trust that the same will happen with Alisson.
Having both the most expensive goalkeeper and defender in the squad is certainly one way to shore up the backline, and while this is probably not Klopp’s ideal method of squad building, morals and ideal take something of a back seat when trophies are on the line. Sometimes the ideal player costs far more than a manager is overly comfortable with.
Alisson’s arrival, of course, comes with a new sense of expectation. Reaching the Champions League final last season was a bonus, granted, but Liverpool fans will now be expecting much more than another battle for fourth place.
Not to suggest that an immediate title charge is being demanded, but this €75m arrival, in addition to other new arrivals Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri (with Nabil Fekir also still a possibility) then it will be assumed that the 25-point gap between the Reds and Man City will be narrowed considerably next season.
Above all else, this shows that Klopp means business, that after so many false dawns over the years, the manager has fully identified weakness and, through sheer force of perseverance, he has amassed virtually of all his primary targets since taking charge at the club. The transformation in playing staff in the three years since his arrival has been staggering, and the calibre of player he is bringing in shows that top-level footballers are buying into his vision.
It’s now up to Klopp and the players to deliver on the pitch, but he has been given all of the ammunition required to do just that.