Commentary

No more shortcuts in Reds' pursuit of success

For all the figures framing Alisson's move to Liverpool - from the size of a world-record fee in the region of £65 million (S$115.7 million) for a goalkeeper to the impressive save percentages - it is the big, fat zero that really catches the eye.

The former Roma custodian did not make a single error that led to a goal in 37 games in the Italian Serie A last season and that, in a nutshell, is why Liverpool have pursued the Brazil international so vigorously.

For Liverpool, a No. 1 who helps in the pursuit of prizes is an obvious upgrade. But the prevailing mood is one of cautious optimism, particularly because this is viewed as a game-changing signing.

One by one, Liverpool's weaknesses are being eradicated by the manager Jurgen Klopp and the club's Boston-based owners, Fenway Sports Group.

A new goalkeeper was needed after the shortcomings of Simon Mignolet and then Loris Karius fuelled an erosion of trust in the team last season following his costly errors in the Champions League defeat by Real Madrid in May.

Alisson, who has been at Roma since 2016, is the very definition of a modern goalkeeper.

He is adept with the ball at his feet, having made 1,082 passes in Serie A last season with an accuracy of 78.93 per cent, but it is his presence, shot-stopping ability and reliability that make him stand out.

The former Roma custodian did not make a single error that led to a goal in 37 games in the Italian Serie A last season and that, in a nutshell, is why Liverpool have pursued the Brazil international so vigorously.

His save ratio was above 79 per cent. Mignolet's was 59 per cent, Karius' 69 per cent, both from 19 games.

Liverpool's decision to invest so heavily in the 25-year-old - who ironically did concede seven goals against them in last season's Champions League semi-final ties - signals a further realisation by Klopp that nature often beats nurture when there is pressure to challenge for the top honours.

In successive transfer windows, the Liverpool manager has sanctioned two world-record fees, the towering Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk having arrived for £75 million in January.

Van Dijk and Alisson are viewed as long-term additions, not quick fixes.

Klopp could not afford to stick with what he had. Karius has returned to pre-season training still broken following his ordeal against Real, despite the in-house explanation that he was concussed at the time of the errors.

The only goalkeeper to keep more clean sheets in Serie A last term than Alisson (17) was Napoli's Pepe Reina (18), who Liverpool have not successfully replaced since offloading in 2013 to save on wages.

That shows how far the club's transfer policy has evolved - no more shortcuts.

The other factor in the change in transfer strategy is Klopp's ability to attract top players.

Not long ago, Steven Gerrard was asked by the hierarchy to text potential targets and use his status as a pull, but now the manager's magnetism makes the difference.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'No more shortcuts in Reds' pursuit of success'. Print Edition | Subscribe