He just caught it.
With just 25 minutes remaining in the Copa América semi-final clash between Argentina and Brazil, Lionel Messi unleashed a free-kick from 25 yards.
The Barcelona maestro is acknowledged by many as the best free-kick taker in world football right now. It was a well-struck effort and it was heading for the top corner of the goal. It would have been the equaliser.
Well, that was until Alisson appeared.
The Liverpool shot-stopper, beaten by a Messi free-kick in the semi-final of the Champions League, took a few steps to his right and plucked the ball out of the air like it was catching practice.
Not again, Mr Messi…
5/5 clean sheets for Alisson at the Copa America pic.twitter.com/IPndLIaKbD
— 🔴 The Red Debate 🎙 (@TheRedDebate) July 3, 2019
He made it look easy when it was anything but. It’s been a theme throughout this season. The 26-year-old regularly makes the difficult appear simple. It’s very rare he needs to make fingertip saves. You’d be hard pressed to find a highlight reel of his showing wonder saves. They don’t exist…at least not in the traditional sense anyway.
Alisson’s handling, for the most part, is clean; he rarely spills shots and he doesn’t play up to the cameras. Because of this, he’s underrated. He’s so consistently safe that the £66million Liverpool paid to sign him from Roma isn’t ever mentioned.
However, he’s not given the credit he deserves purely because, well, he makes everything boring.
As rival fans said after the win over Napoli in December, shots just hit him.
They continued to hit him throughout the Premier League season, the Champions League campaign and have done in the Copa América.
His positioning is overlooked. His reading of the game ignored. His stunning saves are downplayed because they aren’t worthy of a compilation found on YouTube.
Simply put; he’s the best in the world and his form warrants his involvement in the Ballon d’Or conversation.
Since its inception, only one keeper has won the prestigious prize. In 1963, Lev Yashin was named the best player in Europe. The Russian stopper, nicknamed the Black Spider, was also voted the best goalkeeper of the 20th century by the IFFHS.
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Alisson last conceded a goal on 4 May (to Salomón Rondón). Since then the Brazilian keeper has: ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ — Won the Premier League Golden Glove — Won the Champions League — Claimed the Liverpool No.1 shirt — Reached the Copa América final ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Best keeper in the world? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #Alisson #LFC #EPL #UCL #Brazil #CopaAmérica
Oliver Khan placed third in back to back years, Gianluigi Buffon finished as a runner-up in 2006 and Manuel Neuer claimed third spot in 2014. Goalkeepers, just like defenders, are rarely in the contention to win the top individual awards.
Yet if we’re judging the impact players have had over the last 12 months, Alisson should surely be one of the favourites. Virgil van Dijk has put forward a strong case, too. While Messi is playing he’ll always be involved. The same can be said for Cristiano Ronaldo. But neither player won the Champions League last season.
“Football is a sport that you play with a team and I think if you want to win the Ballon d’Or, you have to win the Champions League.
“You can’t win the Ballon d’Or without the Champions League now, it’s so important in the eyes of the world.”
Alisson has the Champions League winners’ medal. He was part of the best defensive unit in the Premier League as the Reds amassed an astonishing 97 points. He won the Golden Glove in both competitions and, with a game to play, no player can match his five clean sheets in the Copa América.
If Brazil beat Peru on Sunday it’ll be difficult to argue the 26-year-old former Internacional keeper shouldn’t be the favourite to be named the 2019 Ballon d’Or winner.
He would’ve followed up being a key factor in Liverpool’s Champions League success by playing an instrumental role in Brazil winning their first Copa América for well over a decade.
Football is a team game but individuals are ultimately the deciding factor. And no player in the last 12 months has made as much of an individual impact as Alisson has for club and country.
The Liverpool No.1 has deserved to have his performances acknowledged. Without him, the Reds wouldn’t have lifted their sixth European trophy and Brazil wouldn’t find themselves in a Copa América final.
A Ballon d’Or win would be the least he deserves.