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They are brothers in arms, members of the goalkeeping fraternity, like their father before them. Their mum, too. Alisson returns for Liverpool on Sunday after suffering a calf injury on the opening day of the season. His older sibling, Muriel, who plays for Fluminense back in Brazil, will be tuning in, nervously, recalling the days when, as boys, they pushed each other to sporting success.
All the Becker brothers needed then was the car park at their grandma’s house in Novo Hamburgo, on the outskirts of Porto Alegre in southern Brazil. That, and a ball, of course, though often that was put to one side, explains Muriel, at 32 the elder by five years.
“Our grandma’s carpark gate was the first goal we defended. To make things more equal, only he could use the hands to make the saves, but I was allowed to do it only with my body. We also played our own game we used to call ‘carrion’. The guy without the ball was allowed to kick the other freely, so showboating was not a good idea. There were tough tackles from me, but he couldn’t care less. He responded in the same way, very bravely.”
Alisson is back after being injured in the 4-1 win over Norwich. While Adrian has proved an unexpected and capable deputy, the Brazilian’s return is a boost for Jurgen Klopp’s men as they chase an 18th successive Premier League victory, against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Muriel, for one, can’t wait. He takes pride in his brother’s successes – his performances the key difference in Liverpool’s fortunes last season as they won the Champions League – and his role in them. The Fluminense keeper helped to toughen him up as a boy – and paid the price when his younger brother leapfrogged him at Internacional.
He recalls with laughter: “We have always been as competitive as we have been close. There was this fraternal rivalry at home. As I knew how to properly tease Alisson, we used to fight very often. We joke nowadays that he suffered bullying even when we didn’t know what that was. I was a little bit harsh on him, irritating and provoking him a lot.”
Magali Becker, their mother, recalls the teasing was so intense that occasionally Alisson would break down in tears. She tells The Sunday Telegraph: “Whenever he lost, either playing football or video game, he got very angry. He never wanted to lose. When that happened, he cried, hit the floor, but we intervened and he calmed down.” Muriel says: “I am strongly convinced that my brother will be back even stronger and that there are many more glories to come. His hunger for winning big trophies is as massive as ever. He is very mature and determined. I am very proud of him and it is total happiness to watch the person I carried in my arms, one of the people I spent the most time with, to achieve his dreams and to reach the peak of his career.”
Alisson knows the debt he owes his big brother. The Golden Glove winner and Uefa’s reigning goalkeeper of the season acknowledges Muriel as the key influence on him and calls him his biggest football hero.
The brothers each know they owe their close bond to Magali and their father José Antonio, both amateur keepers – she played handball, and he had the same role in football matches with friends. Muriel accompanied José wherever he went, and Alisson followed in his brother’s footsteps. As Muriel had done, Alisson joined Internacional’s youth academy aged 10.
Even before they found themselves fighting for the first team’s No 1 shirt, Alisson’s road to stardom started early. Magali says: “He was already handsome at a very young age. When he was 14, he said, ‘Mum, there is a modelling competition at school and I want to win the prize, a mobile phone’. He won it and was even invited by an agency to take some photos, but we didn’t keep doing that sort of job because his training was the priority.”
It did not take long for him to stand out on the pitch, says Durgue Vidal, Internacional goalkeeping coach, who shaped Alisson’s skills for four years in the academy. They worked together in the first-team squad for another season.
“At 16, he burst onto the scene and we couldn’t hold him back anymore, he was way ahead of his colleagues, with so much power and technique for his age. And he naturally started to show his leadership and to guide the group”.
Former Brazil manager Dunga handed Alisson his senior debut in 2013, though he had to wait 20 months to become Internacional’s undisputed starter. The following season, he was competing not only with his older brother but also with the legendary Dida, aged 40. In October 2014, opportunity knocked: Dida was suspended, and Muriel, his replacement, was injured. Aged 22, Alisson seized the chance with solid displays. Fast forward a year and he made his debut for Brazil, also under Dunga, against Venezuela in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. Roma were to sign the goalkeeping colossus, who then moved to Merseyside for £67 million in July last year.
Alisson values his roots. After his first year at Liverpool, he took his father, two of his closest friends since Inter’s academy, his father-in-law and his nephew, Muriel’s son, to spend a few days in his farm in the countryside of Rio Grande do Sul.
Willian Simon, his right-hand man and one of the guests, says: “His human side is spectacular and he is a very humble guy who cares about not only his friends but their families as well. There in the farm he could be truly himself: walking barefoot, sleeping on the floor, fishing and riding his horses.”
Gustavo Rambo, the other friend who was there, praises other Alisson abilities. “He is a sensational barbecue cook. And he also he leads the songs playing the guitar. We love Brazilian country music.”
A win at Old Trafford would mean Liverpool match Manchester City’s run under Pep Guardiola two seasons ago. Already a Kop hero, Alisson has shown the club countless times they are in safe hands.