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How competing with Dida and being in Wojciech Szczesny’s shadow sculpted Alisson

Alisson has gone from not playing a league game to being the world's most expensive goalkeeper in the space of one season

Sixty-seven million is a lot to pay for a pair of hands.

Especially when those hands don’t belong to Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Vincent van Gogh or McFadden’s Cold War.

Nope, these hands belong to a goalkeeper who didn’t play a single league game during the 2016/17 season. Life’s moved fast for Alisson Ramses Becker, aka The World’s Most Expensive Goalkeeper™.

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Is no one going to question why there’s two goalkeepers in the same box?

Is no one going to question why there’s two goalkeepers in the same box?

Goalkeeping runs in the Becker family.

Alisson, who was born in Novo Hamburgo, Porto Alegre, followed his brother Muriel to local side Internacional at the age of 11.

International recognition arrived before a first-team debut when, in 2009, Alisson was called up to Brazil’s Under-17 squad.

It would be another four years until that first taste of senior football came.

On 17 February 2013 Alisson was selected to start Internacional’s Campeonato Gaucho championship game against Cruzeiro-RS, which ended in a 1-1 draw and no clean sheet.

Six months later he made his league debut in a 3-3 draw against Goias. It wasn’t a great start, especially as Alisson was nutmegged for one of Goias’ goals.

Despite the shaky beginnings and the slightly odd dynamic of playing understudy to his older brother, Internacional was the perfect place for Alisson’s fledgling career.

In Dunga he had a manager who’d won the World Cup with Brazil as a player and then overseen a Copa America victory as a coach.

Alisson could also learn from team-mate Dida, a goalkeeper with 91 caps for Brazil to his name and a trophy cabinet containing two Champions League trophies and a World Cup.

Eyes on the prize

Eyes on the prize

Training consisted of keeping out international strikers Diego Forlan and Leandro Damiao as well as Argentinian maverick Andres D’Alessandro.

Everything was falling into place.

By 2015 he was established as Internacional’s no.1 and had been capped by Brazil, making his senior debut in a 3-1 win against Venezuela in October.

This inevitably brought the European vultures.

Roma eventually won the race for his signature, taking the Brazilian to Italy ahead of the 2016/17 season.

Don’t drop it

Don’t drop it

But Alisson’s career hit a Polish roadblock.

He didn’t play a single minute of Serie A football as Luciano Spalletti put all his trust in Wojciech Szczesny.

His first-team football was limited to Europa League run outs against the likes of Astra Giurgiu and the odd Coppa Italia fixture.

Conceding three goals against Austria Vienna and four times against Lyon didn’t do much to boost his first-team chances.

That familiar sinking feeling

AP:Associated Press
That familiar sinking feeling

But Szczesny’s surprising decision to move to Juventus and compete with Gigi Buffon at the start of last season opened the door for Alisson.

He hasn’t looked back since.

He played in all but one of Roma’s Serie A games last season in which only champions Juventus conceded fewer goals.

Coach Eusebio Di Francesco’s decision not to rest Alisson in the Champions League helped him edge out Man City’s Ederson and earn the gloves for Brazil’s World Cup campaign.

Liverpool had seen enough.

Is there a more iconic kit in world football?

Getty - Contributor
Is there a more iconic kit in world football?

His next task will be coping with the pressure that comes with the ‘world’s most expensive goalkeeper’ tag.

The first fumbled cross, spilt shot or wayward pass will be jumped on by pundits and fans alike.

At Roma he was described as the ‘Messi of goalkeepers’ due to his mentality. He’ll need every inch of that cerebral steel to deal with the rigours of the Premier League.

It’s one thing trying to keep Mauro Icardi and Ciro Immobile out, it’s another trying to pinch a cross off Chris Wood’s head.