Neil Humphreys: Alisson gives Liverpool an edge against Atletico
Liverpool's unbeatable goalkeeper Alisson gives Klopp an edge over Atletico
Juergen Klopp wasn't falling for the hysteria over his Liverpool goalkeeper. He offered a flippant remark instead.
Of course Alisson made that save against Norwich City in their English Premier League match on Saturday, he said, but that's what his goalkeeper gets paid for.
Yes, but not saves like that. Hardly anyone makes saves like that.
Alisson had no idea if Norwich midfielder Lukas Rupp was offside when he broke clear, one-on-one, against the exposed Reds custodian.
As Rupp was attempting a lay-off for Teemu Pukki, from nowhere, a hand the size of a dinner plate clawed the ball away.
Liverpool's beast had struck again, reminding us that he's not just the best in the business. He's also their most potent weapon in the Champions League.
Tomorrow morning (Singapore time), Liverpool return to the Wanda Metropolitano for the first time since lifting the European trophy there - only this time they'll be taking on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone must contend with a Liverpool forward line for the ages, an industrious skipper who has reinvented himself as a complete midfielder and a couple of fullbacks quicker than Sonic the Hedgehog.
And, even then, the greatest obstacle to clear is a hairy Brazilian.
Clean sheets are priceless in a two-legged tie, obviously, and, at Carrow Road, Alisson picked up his 10th in 11 EPL games.
On the eve of Saturday's fixture, his save percentage humbled his competitors.
He stands at 87 per cent, way ahead of Ederson (66.15), Kasper Schmeichel (71.4), David de Gea (69.15) and Kepa Arrizabalaga (55.56).
He's a hirsute human blockade with the passing range of a libero. He launches attacks and then pops back to make saves like he's sitting on a sun lounger and reaching out for a cocktail.
Even before he'd shovelled away Rupp's attempted pass for Pukki, he had stopped 26 of the last 27 shots faced.
Klopp knows he's being disingenuous when he downplays Alisson's ethereal abilities. Goalkeepers are paid to make saves, but not that many.
Perhaps there's that sense of collective endeavour with Klopp unwilling to heap excessive praise on one player, but he's more likely trying to shift focus away from Alisson's pivotal role in Madrid.
If the Brazilian keeps a clean sheet, then the Reds move a significant step closer to retaining their Champions League trophy.
Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata are both shaking off injuries in their attempts to face Alisson. But he'll be a million miles from caring either way.
Against Norwich, his meditative approach to the wintry effects of Storm Dennis was somewhere between Bruce Grobbelaar and John Wick. The swirling winds and incessant rain - nightmarish conditions for any goalkeeper - were met with a shrug of indifference.
His handling was faultless and his distribution defied Storm Dennis' best efforts to turn footballs into beach balls.
Nothing fazes Alisson. He has an otherworldly presence in these frenetic contests, operating on a Zen-like level above those around him.
But it's still too easy to throw him in the category marked "great Liverpool signings" along with Virgil van Dijk, as if the Reds merely waved their cheque book to conjure the finest goalkeeper and centre-back of their generation.
Chelsea's Arrizabalaga and Manchester United's Harry Maguire are currently doing a decent job of showing that it's not quite as simple as that.
Like van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and most overachievers in the current line-up, Alisson didn't swagger into Liverpool as a flawless gem requiring the odd polish from the coaching staff.
The Brazilian was a relative unknown, having been AS Roma's first-choice goalkeeper for just one full season.
In the 2017-2018 campaign, he conceded 10 Champions League goals in four games against English opposition - seven of which were scored by his current teammates.
Alisson was a burgeoning talent, but by no means the finished article.
To meet Klopp's stringent demands, goalkeeping coach John Achterberg worked on Alisson's distribution through endless passing drills, quickened his reflexes and improved the speed of his all-round game.
Hardly anyone remembers the Brazilian's hefty transfer fee now. It was £66 million (S$119m). He could be sold for twice that amount today.
They just remember his latest saves. There are plenty to choose from. Klopp can playfully dismiss his goalkeeping brilliance, but his antics won't blindside Simeone.
If the Atletico coach is going to have any chance of toppling the Merseyside giants, he's got to take out the biggest of them all.
Between Liverpool's posts, a monster awaits.