Liverpool’s Alisson: ‘My header was special but the clean sheets are better’

On Tuesday it will be two years since Alisson scored the soaring, stoppage-time header that maintained Liverpool’s late surge towards Champions League qualification at the end of a troubled campaign. Liverpool will have their goalkeeper to thank again should history repeat itself this season, albeit for the Brazil international’s outstanding contribution in his own goalmouth.

Jürgen Klopp presented Alisson with a goalkeeper’s jersey with 100 printed on the back following last Saturday’s 1-0 win over Brentford, secured by Mohamed Salah’s 13th-minute goal. The gesture was in recognition of the 100th clean sheet of the Brazilian’s Liverpool career, although his manager had a point when joking that: “This is actually for 100 life-saving saves this season.” To which Alisson replied: “It might have been more.”

This is the first season that Alisson has had to make over 100 saves in his five years at Liverpool. It is not a statistic that Klopp or his defence will be proud of but the frequent exposure has simply reinforced the Brazilian’s brilliance on a regular basis. No Premier League goalkeeper has saved more “post-shot expected goals” this season than Alisson, with 9.3. Fulham’s Bernd Leno is second on the list with 9.2 but the drop off to Jordan Pickford in third, with 4.4, is stark. However this campaign ends, with Liverpool heading to relegation-threatened Leicester on Monday night, it is Klopp’s 30-year-old keeper who has provided the platform for a European salvage operation and is their undoubted player of the season.

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“I haven’t put the shirt on the wall yet, I haven’t had time yet, but it means a lot to me even if I don’t realise how big is 100 clean sheets now,” says Alisson, the seventh goalkeeper to keep that total for Liverpool. “Maybe in the future I will. I am not the guy who is really obsessed with numbers, although of course numbers give you a basis if you’re doing well or not. I’m really happy to achieve 100 clean sheets for the club. When I saw on the internet a few of the names that reached this number then you see something special, so I’m really happy to be among them. This is not a job exclusive of myself, it’s a job of the team, of the players, the goalie coach department, the staff, everybody.

“Now I definitely want to make the next step. 100 is a lot for me now [in 229 appearances] but in comparison to the great goalies in Liverpool’s history it is not even 50% of what they achieved. They got over 200 clean sheets. I don’t know if I can play as many matches as them. Ray [Clemence] had over 600 matches for Liverpool [665 in all] and I don’t know if I can play that amount here, but I’m already looking forward to the next 50 or 100 clean sheets, and for the next one in the next match we have. It would be special to be alongside them or to beat them. I admire a lot what the great goalies did, but I’m writing my own story here at Liverpool and I’m focused on that.”

Alisson’s Liverpool story will always feature his famous winner at West Brom that helped Klopp’s team secure Champions League football and, by extension, a ticket towards last season’s final. He receives regular reminders of the header as the anniversary approaches. “It appears on my timeline all the time when I look on Twitter for news,” he says. “I’ve watched it again this week already. It made me feel good and makes me think how crazy it is that I scored a goal.”

Alisson heads in a late goal against West Brom in May 2021
Alisson’s late goal against West Brom in May 2021 was crucial to keeping his side’s push for the Champions League places on track. Photograph: Tim Keeton/AFP/Getty Images

Liverpool’s No 1 insists: “The goal is special but the clean sheets are better,” as a goalkeeper would. But he hopes there are parallels between what happened at the Hawthorns and this season’s drive for a top-four finish, with Liverpool heading to Leicester on the back of a six-match winning streak.

“It was kind of a sign for us that something special was coming,” says Alisson of his goal. “I could be 100 times in the box but I don’t know if I will score again. I do know now that I can head a ball in a good way! Hopefully we are not going to need it again. I think this season we are having special moments. [Diogo] Jota’s goal is a really special one against Tottenham, last minute as well. The last match with Mo’s goal. Every goal we are scoring now and that leads us to win games is special. It depends on what we do with it next season. That’s what made my goal even more special. It was not the goal that made the season special but the season after that made my goal even better.”