Alisson's the best in the world right now, says former Reds custodian James
Despite Liverpool winning two trophies last season, there are still a handful of fans who can’t help but feel disappointed with the Reds' campaign overall.
After dramatically missing out on the Premier League title by a single point, Liverpool also fell short in the UEFA Champions League final after a 1-0 loss to Real Madrid in Paris, causing some fans to cross out the 2021-22 season as a “miss”.
Former Liverpool and England goalkeeper David James, however, had no hesitation in labelling the team’s season as “incredible”.
“The league was never Liverpool's to win… and in the Champions League final, we played well, but (Real Madrid goalkeeper) Thibaut Courtois was phenomenal,” he told TNP in an interview ahead of Friday's Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy against Crystal Palace at the National Stadium.
"Listen, you can’t fault the strikers when a goalkeeper plays that well. His save against (Sadio) Mane, and then against (Mohamed) Salah…I was at the game, and (former Portugal goalkeeper) Vitor Baia was seated near to me. And he kept turning to me when Courtois made save after save, saying ‘what!’ We just couldn't believe how he was playing… So you really can’t fault Liverpool.”
James, 51, who made 277 appearances for the Reds between 1992 and 1999, has been working as a pundit since retiring in 2015, following a string of player-coaching roles in Iceland and India.
The 1.94m custodian played in 572 top-level matches and once held the Premier League record for most clean sheets with 169, until Chelsea’s Petr Čech surpassed his record.
When asked who he thought was the best goalkeeper in the world right now, James once again didn’t have to ponder very long.
“Alisson.” he said, even before the question was finished.
“Based on last season, that is. Because the way he played all season, I mean Liverpool lost just four games. And in some of those games, he made some massive saves before Salah, (Luis) Diaz and the rest took over.
“You see in the highlights how the goals were scored and all that, but you don’t see how Alisson kept Liverpool in it. So he ranks low on the highlight reel, but he’s been so important.”
James, who also played for West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth in his day, cited City’s Edison as another goalkeeper he’s a fan of.
When asked who impressed him on the opposite end during his playing days, James replied in jest: “I think it’s better to say who I didn't like. The ones who could do things I couldn’t.”
“Peter Schmeichel was one,” he said with a wry grin.
“His shot-stopping, I mean he changed goalkeeping with his style. (Edwin) van der Sar was another. His distribution was ridiculous. He created a level of sureness and confidence around his defence. When he wasn’t playing, you could see the nervousness; it wasn’t the same.
“David Seaman was another that frustrated me. Because I couldn’t score past him in shooting sessions (with England). And I fancied myself a decent shooter.
“And of course (Gianluigi) Buffon.”
Keepers aside, James hopes the upcoming EPL season will give us as much excitement as the previous, when both the title race and relegation battle went down to the wire.
"The pieces are already in place,” he said. “(Tottenham manager) Antonio Conte is in a better place now. Harry Kane is happy, Son (Heung-Min) is happy. And happy players are better players.
“Chelsea, going back to pre-Romelu Lukaku days is interesting. Raheem Sterling has signed for them, I mean what’s that about?” he said in wonderment.
“And then there’s Liverpool. I think their season hinges on one player – (new signing) Darwin Nunes.
“It’s about what he can add to the team now that Mane’s gone. And can he make up those two more points that Liverpool needed last season?”
Tonight’s (Friday, July 15, 8.35pm) Standard Chartered Singapore Trophy match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at the Singapore Sports Hub is a vaccinated-only event.
TraceTogether app/ token check-in is required, and patrons are advised to arrive at the venue early, take public transport, and to download their tickets ahead of arrival at the National Stadium.