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Copa America

Best goalkeeper in the world! Unbeatable Alisson close to double title glory

14:00 GMT+3 02/07/2019
Alisson Brazil Copa America
The goalkeeper is confirming at the Copa America that he is the No.1 shot-stopper on the planet with a remarkable run of clean sheets

It was the type of moment in which everything felt bigger.

Stared down by Paraguay's Derlis Gonzalez following 90 minutes that featured a lot more grit and grind than Joga bonito, Brazil No.1 Alisson had the spotlight fixed on him.

It was the Copa America quarter-finals and the fans of the host nation were gripped with nerves; another penalty shootout loss to Paraguay would have been almost too much to take.

Those nerves rapidly turned to confidence, as Alisson dived to his left, pushing away Gonzalez's penalty while causing what seemed like a group exhale at the Arena do Gremio.

For years, the title of goalkeeping king has seemingly been unanimous. Gianluigi Buffon reigned supreme for a time on the back of performances with Italy and Juventus before the title fell to Real Madrid's Iker Casillas.

The Spain goalkeeper held firm until Manuel Neuer's rise with Bayern Munich and Germany reignited the debate on how the position can and should be played. But even Neuer's time came, with David de Gea breaking the cycle of World Cup winners on the throne thanks to his safe hands with Manchester United.

But those safe hands are now seemingly gone following a lacklustre World Cup and a frustrating Premier League campaign for the Spanish star, leaving one key question: who is the best goalkeeper in the world right now?

In current times, it's hard to argue against Alisson, a player that could guide Brazil to the Copa America final with a win over Argentina on Tuesday night. It would be his second final in a matter of weeks, having already propelled Liverpool to Champions League glory in Madrid. 

It's been a remarkable run for the 26-year-old shot-stopper, who has yet to concede a goal in the Copa America following matches against Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela and Bolivia as Brazil has outscored opponents 8-0 throughout their topsy-turvy run. It's a remarkable run of clean sheets, and one that extends even further back.

Before the Copa America, Alisson held firm in a 7-0 smashing of Honduras in a friendly. Prior to that, there was the Champions League final win over Tottenham, a 2-0 triumph that saw Alisson's steady hands push away a late Christian Eriksen free kick to preserve the Reds' lead.

If you keep going, there was a 2-0 win over Wolves to end the Premier League season and the famous 4-0 stunner against Barcelona that will be remembered for years to come. The last man to score against Alisson? Newcastle's Salomon Rondon on May 4, nearly two months and nine games ago.

But it isn't just a recent run of clean sheets that have made Alisson's case. One could argue he's playing behind the best defender in the world in Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool, and it's not hard to see that Brazil are the class of South American soccer, even if they haven't quite looked it during recent matches.

However, the quality and importance of Alisson's interventions for his respective sides over the past two years have been truly remarkable.

Liverpool shipped just 22 goals in 38 Premier League games this past season, Alisson's first since the Reds splashed £66 million ($84 million) to bring the Brazilian from Roma to steady a ship rocked by an infamous performance by Loris Karius.

From the start, the Reds were a different team with Alisson in goal. He was confident, safe and reliable, giving Liverpool a No. 1 they could truly believe in for the first time in years. Those characteristics were touted despite an early blunder just weeks into his Liverpool career, a mistake he recovered from virtually immediately as he led the club within a point of the Premier League title.

Before Liverpool, there was Roma, where he amassed 17 clean sheets in Serie A as the club sealed a third-place finish and a spot in the Champions League semi-final by stunning the very same Barcelona side Alisson tormented again this past season.

In between Roma and Liverpool was a World Cup run with Brazil, a team that reached the quarter-finals of the tournament with the goalkeeper going 323 minutes without conceding a goal along the way.

And when the lights were brightest with a trophy on the line? Alisson was the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a Champions League final since fellow Brazilian Julio Cesar in 2010. He made eight saves on the day, a Champions League record.

There was the stop on Eriksen and a late save on Son Heung-min. There was a sequence of three saves in a minute as Spurs threatened to get back in the match. They never did, and Alisson's Liverpool have a sixth Champions League trophy because of it.

"He's the man, isn't he?" defender Andrew Robertson said to Liverpool’s official website after the Champions League final win. "A lot was said about Ali when he first came, a lot of pressure on him. My God, he's been unbelievable this season.

"[Against Spurs], it was an absolute joke the way he made the saves. He was different class. It's down to him that we kept a clean sheet."

It's worth remembering, too, that Liverpool wouldn't have even made it out of the group stage had it not been for Alisson's sensational reaction save from Arkadiusz Milik in the dying minutes of the crucial 1-0 win over Napoli at Anfield on matchday six.

Even still, the debate will rage on. The title of world's best, at least for now, is not unanimous. Fans of the brilliant Jan Oblak would have something to say about it, although his lack of international success, rightly or wrongly, will weigh against him.

Barcelona star Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has become a rock for the Catalan side and is Neuer's Germany successor, but, for whatever reason, Joachim Low has yet to fully trust the 27-year-old with the reins.

Goalkeepers like Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois are certainly in the conversation, while Gianluigi Donnarumma and Brazil No.2 Ederson feel like they will be soon if they aren't already.

But right now, that conversation revolves around Alisson, regardless of what happens in the next week at the Copa America. The discussion will continue on as football looks for a spiritual successor to Buffon, Casillas, Neuer and De Gea.

The title is up for grabs for the first time in decades, but the Brazilian's safe hands are wrapped around it for the time being. Those hands have also wrapped around a Champions League trophy and, soon, they may lift a Copa America, which would be Brazil's first since 2007.

The spotlight is again there for the Liverpool goalkeeper, and he has never shied away from it before.