This year, Liverpool smashed the record transfer price for a goalkeeper, though it has just been beaten by Chelsea’s purchase of Kepa Arrizabalaga. They paid Roma £65 million for Alisson. Were they ripped off or was it a shrewd piece of business?
Liverpool’s problems in goal
There is no doubt that Liverpool needed a stronger goalkeeper. Karius’ now infamous performance in the Champions League Final highlighted their need for a new goalkeeper, if they were to consistently compete at the very top.
However, a lot of people feel that £65 million for a goalkeeper is way too much.
It is a strange anomaly that in the age of sky-rocketing transfer prices, the price of goalkeepers has remained relatively low.
In 2001 Juventus paid Parma £32.6 million for the services of Buffon – an extraordinary amount of money at the time. However, this proved to be a great investment. During his 17-year spell at the Old Lady he kept the most clean sheets in Serie A history, has the record for the longest run of matches without conceding a goal (12), and once went 974 consecutive minutes without conceding during the 2015/16 season.
With that kind of record, it looks like Buffon turned out to be a bit of a bargain – even staying with the club following the Calciopoli scandal, when they were relegated, to help bring them back to the top.
However, his stellar performance and worthwhile purchase was treated as a fluke, and decision makers at clubs seemed to ignore or massively undervalue ‘keepers. It wasn’t until last season that the record was broken again.
The Ederson effect
Manchester City raised eyebrows when they paid a then world record fee of £35 million for the Brazilian stopper last season. However, this proved a great investment.
His 40 sweeper clearances, 25.78 average passes per match, and 147 accurate long balls over the Premier League season show the effect he has on City’s style of play.
Alisson and a change of style
According to WhoScored, Karius’ passing accuracy last season was 67.2% in the Premier League, falling to 53.4% in the Champions League. Alisson’s average was at 78.9% in his last season with Roma. This greater accuracy of distribution could give Liverpool a stronger base to play out from the back. He is also going to be useful when starting their lighting fast counter-attacks.
A more confident and assured goalkeeper breeds confidence throughout the defence, which leads to less defensive mistakes and a more consistent performance from his team mates. Though the success of this tactic is difficult to quantify, it should have a positive effect on Liverpool’s season.
A shrewd investment?
Goalkeepers have been undervalued for years. Purchases at these record-breaking prices will soon become the new normal. Alisson could well be a Buffon-like investment for Liverpool – a goalkeeper that seemed like a very expensive purchase turned out to be a very shrewd investment in the team’s future. Liverpool fans will certainly hope so.