Editor’s Column: Alisson should be Player of the Year contender, and not just for ending Pickford

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Alisson’s most iconic moment is obviously his headed winner against West Brom last season that ensured our qualification for the Champions League…

We’re currently in the semi-finals of the competition and due to play Villarreal tomorrow – but it could be argued that our European run started when the Brazilian brilliantly headed in from a corner. We won our remaining Premier League games and and are now in the hunt for a quadruple.

Closely behind that moment might just be his mocking of Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside Derby at the weekend…

Everton’s time-wasting was so calculated and outrageous that Pickford, with the ball already in his hands, dived to the floor to use up an extra 30 seconds in the first-half, but once Liverpool had taken the lead, Ali made sure to get his own back.

It’s rare to see 50,000 people laughing in hysterics together, but that’s what happened on Sunday.

All season though, and especially since Christmas, he’s been elite. On opening day against Norwich he made a jaw-dropping point-blank save that set the tone for his individual campaign.

So far, he’s collected 20 PL clean-sheets this term – and could break Petr Cech’s all-time record of 24 if he doesn’t let another one in domestically against Newcastle, Spurs, Aston Villa, Southampton or Wolves.

Unlikely, but not completely impossible judging by the fact that since the turn of the New Year, he’s notched 15 clean-sheets in 25 games in all competitions.

With Liverpool playing such a high-line, there are times when our exceptional offside trap doesn’t work, but Ali’s ability when the opposition is one-v-one makes it less of a dramatic risk.

As Jamie Carragher highlighted on Monday Night Football, the Liverpool keeper is so good in these situations the onrushing striker is really the underdog.

Ali’s biggest strength, arguably, is his positioning. A lot of the time he doesn’t have to make a flying save for the cameras, as he’s a complete master of the angles and has put himself in the spot the striker will likely hit.

So when shots cannon into Ali’s mid-rift, or an outstretched foot – it’s not luck – it’s by goalkeeping design.

Second to his positioning is surely his composure. Alisson set the tone for the domination of Manchester United last week by turning Bruno Ferdnandes inside out in the opening minutes. There are some fans in Anfield for whom this kind of trickery causes savage anxiety, but really, we should have learned to trust him by now. It nearly always works and sets us on a period of possession.

Mo Salah’s wonder-goal, assisted by Sadio Mane in the same game, started from Alisson teasing their strikers into pressing him at the other end.

Now, Liverpool’s Player of the Year should probably be Salah. He has 30 goals and 13 assists in the Premier League and Champions League. His form in the first half of the season led many to rightly claim that at the time, he was head and shoulders above any footballer on the planet.

Sadio Mane has been fantastic post-Christmas, while there could be arguments for Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and maybe even Thiago given how untouchably good he’s become when fit.

But we would not be fighting on four fronts if it wasn’t for Ali. Our goalkeeper is our Get Out Of Jail card and the saves he has made have kept us in close games and provided us a platform from which our insanely good attackers can flourish.

This exact same side with Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius in goal would not be challenging Manchester City – that much can be said with absolute certainty.

We do have a capable understudy in Caoimhín Kelleher, but barring van Dijk, the one player we could most afford not to lose before the summer is Ali.

Keepers don’t get individual awards, but such is the character of the man it’s not something that would ever bother him. His place in the Premier League Team of the Season is assured.

Look at how far ahead he is of other stoppers when it comes to one-v-ones this term.

Ali, in terms of natural ability, football skills and physicality, is Liverpool’s best goalkeeper of all time.

What’s more, he’s contracted until 2027 (sorry, Kelleher!) so he’ll be guarding our net until long after Jurgen Klopp has departed. We’re lucky to have him.

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