Alisson Becker has had quite the year.
The Brazilian was the highest-ranked goalkeeper in the 2018 Goal 50, thanks primarily to his heroics during Roma's surprise run to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
However, Alisson has gone to a whole other level since joining Liverpool, whom he helped conquer Europe last season.
The 27-year-old also won the Premier League's Golden Glove award, with 21 clean sheets, before conceding just one goal during Brazil's Copa America triumph during the summer.
Hardly surprising, then, that Alisson has finished even higher up the Goal 50 standings this time around, claiming seventh place.
But what makes the Selecao star such a special shot-stopper? And is there even more to come from Alisson?
Goal's Liverpool correspondent Neil Jones caught up with the Reds' goalkeeping coach, John Achterberg, to find out...
Firstly, John, this is the second year in a row that Alisson has been the top-ranked goalkeeper in the Goal 50 list. Is there any doubt in your mind that he is the best around right now?
JA: Well, you don’t want to say it too much in the open, but if you look at it and you follow goalkeepers, he deserves it.
Last year, he won everything that was there to win for him, and he was the most consistent goalie around. I don’t think many people would argue that.
Now, the chance is there for him to do it again and again and again. That’s something we talk about with him.
You have to find your focus and find a way to reproduce your form over time. It’s about desire, wanting to be the best goalkeeper in training, wanting to be better than the opposition goalkeeper, wanting to be the best you can possibly be.
You have to create that mentality, get five clean sheets, get 10, set yourself targets as a person, to be the best in every aspect you can be. When you lose that drive, that’s the moment you will decline.
You’re known here at Melwood as a goalkeeping obsessive who watches games and studies players all over the world. Can you remember when Alisson first came to your attention?
JA: It was a game for Internacional in 2013, and I watched it on the laptop in my office at home.
I’m always looking for goalkeepers, everywhere. If someone gets discussed in the press, I want to know, or if there is an under-17 championships or an under-19s tournament, I want to watch.
It was [Alexander] Doni, our former goalie at Liverpool, who came to me about Alisson. He said that he had big potential, that he could be really good. He told me this guy could be special.
Did he stand out immediately?
JA: Yes. He was the right size, he was always playing out from the back well. He was calm, he would come for crosses, he made good decisions, read danger well and he made all kinds of saves. That’s not a bad start!
To play for Liverpool, we are looking for every aspect to be the best it can be. Playing for Liverpool is different to playing for West Ham, for example. We need a goalie who can do everything; play with his feet, cover the space in behind, come for crosses, deal with one-v-ones, speed, reactions...
Then, you consider what it’s like playing in the Premier League, where everything is twice as quick. You need to think quicker, move quicker, react quicker and make quicker decisions. That’s another challenge and if you look around the world, there are not too many who can be the whole package.
Is it true you looked to sign him in 2015?
JA: Yes, we were looking for a goalkeeper who could come in and challenge for the No.1 spot. We were looking at Neto from Fiorentina but he chose to go to Juventus that summer, so we needed an alternative.
I had been following Alisson in Brazil, so his name came up. The problem we had was the EU passport; he didn’t have one, and he wasn’t an international player, and so there was no chance to do a deal at that time.
The next year, he went to Roma, so we were able to follow him even more closely. He played against us in a friendly match in St Louis and he was impressive. That was when I told the manager (Jurgen Klopp) about him.
He signed for Liverpool eventually in 2018. How quickly was he able to settle in?
JA: Pretty quickly. He arrived into the group when we were at the training camp in Evian, and I think that was a really important week for him and for the team.
He showed the boys pretty quickly what he was about. The boys all liked what they saw straight away, on and off the field. I remember he sang for the boys in Brazilian with his guitar, and he was pretty good!
He fits in well. Everyone likes him, he is able to get on with the boys and that is important. You want all your players to feel part of it, and Alisson is very much a part of it. He’s an important guy in the dressing room, for sure.
What’s he like to coach?
JA: He wants to work hard, first and foremost. We talk a lot. As a coach, you are there to help and express your ideas, but you are part of a team and you have to listen to what the player wants as well.
He is the one who has to play, so I ask him ‘What do you want?’ He needs to feel good, comfortable.
He is a football fan. His brother, Muriel, is a goalie as well, so it runs in the family. But he knows when to switch off, which can be just as important.
Jurgen Klopp says his best quality is that he makes difficult things looks easy...
JA: That comes from his temperament. You have to be calm under pressure, to be able to think clearly and quickly and make good decisions. Ali has that.
He makes things easy because he is calm, he doesn’t panic. His game-reading is really good, and so he knows where he needs to be. For me, his temperament is one of his biggest strengths.
He’s made mistakes, of course…
JA: They happen. Against Leicester, against Manchester United last season, he made mistakes but we won the game. They didn’t cost us.
You have to be calm in those situations. I don’t need to tell him they were mistakes; he knows. But he also knows that all goalies in the world make mistakes at some time.
[Manuel] Neuer makes them, [Jan] Oblak makes them, they all do. It’s about how you react to them which matters. Like I say, Ali has a very good temperament and he is able to deal with these kinds of things well.
He put in some big performances last season but it seemed like the biggest games brought out the best in him?
JA: Well, you say that but, really, the biggest games get the most attention. The thing with Ali is he does everything the same whether it’s Barcelona or Huddersfield.
He prepares the same, his focus is the same, his mindset is the same. He is consistent and that’s what makes you a top goalie.
As a club, we had done our homework on him. We had spoken to people, we had watched games, we had all the data. We knew what kind of personality he was, and we were confident that he could make the transition to our team, our way of playing, training, to English football.
He certainly did that! So, now he’s proven himself as the world’s best, what's next?
JA: It’s difficult to say, but what I can say is that he came to us at a really high level, and he has continued that. It’s as I say, keeping that intensity, drive and focus as high as possible. That’s the challenge for him.
And if he plays like he did last year in the coming years, well, everyone will be happy, no?