Amnesty International has suggested the collapse of Newcastle United's Saudi-backed takeover will be seen as a "sign" that human rights defenders have not been completely disregarded.

A proposed £300million purchase of the Premier League club, backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), whose chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had been ongoing for several months.

But the prospective new owners pulled out of a deal on Thursday, owing largely to the protracted nature of negotiations, which combined with the coronavirus pandemic, had made the investment "no longer commercially viable".

There had been strong opposition to the deal from human rights campaigners concerned about Saudi Arabia's welfare practices, while matters were complicated further when the World Trade Organization (WTO) published a report that found representatives of the Kingdom facilitated the breach of piracy laws through broadcasting network beoutQ, who were accused of illegally showing Premier League football and other sport.

Amnesty International, the world's leading human rights organisation, was among the most vocal critics when the deal first came to light, telling Stats Perform News in April that the takeover was an attempt to "sportswash" – using sports or a club as a PR tool to divert attention from areas of concern, or improve a country's image.

Following Thursday's collapse, the organisation is hoping human rights defenders take heart.

"This deal was always a blatant attempt by the government of Saudi Arabia to try to sportswash its abysmal human rights record by buying into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football," Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK's economics affairs programme director, said.

"The fact that this sportswashing bid has failed will be seen by human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia as a sign that their suffering has not been entirely overlooked.

"Numerous peaceful Saudi human rights activists are currently behind bars, and of course a Saudi journalist was grotesquely murdered by agents of the Saudi state less than two years ago.

"Looking ahead, there needs to be a rule change to ensure the Premier League's Owners' and Directors' test provides proper scrutiny of the human rights records of those trying to buy into English football, not least when the buyers are governments or government representatives.

"We'll be watching developments at St James' Park with interest and meanwhile we wish Newcastle United and its fans well."

Manchester City are wasting little time in their close-season rebuild after a bid for Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake was reportedly accepted on Thursday.

A deal worth an initial £40million is said to have been agreed with the relegated Cherries as City reinforce options in a defence that drew criticism during Liverpool's march to the 2019-20 Premier League title.

But just what will City be adding to their central defensive options if a deal for Ake goes through?

With some help from Opta, we took a look at the data comparing the Dutch centre-back to Aymeric Laporte, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Eric Garcia, going back to when Ake joined Bournemouth on a permanent deal ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.


CASE FOR THE DEFENCE?

Scoring goals was, unsurprisingly, not a problem for City this season as they racked up a mightily impressive 102 in the Premier League.

Indeed, the 35 they conceded was the second-best record in the division – Ederson claimed the Golden Glove thanks to 16 clean sheets - but represented a dip against the respective 27 and 23 they shipped in the previous two campaigns.

So, will Ake help Pep Guardiola's side improve at the back? There are certainly positive signs.

For instance, Ake has won more tackles (88) and duels (469) than any of Laporte (33 and 226), Stones (32 and 208), Otamendi (71 and 325) or Garcia (1 and 25) in our timeframe.

But, as the more astute among you will recognise, this does not nearly paint a full picture, not least because Ake has comfortably the most appearances with 105, compared to Otamendi (76), Laporte (59), Stones (58) and Garcia (13).

A more useful indicator could be a tackle success rate of 58.67, which ranks third behind Stones (68.09) and Otamendi (64.55). When it comes to duel success percentage, Ake's 58.12 is higher only than Garcia's (42.37).

Indeed, when looking at the data for averages per 90 minutes Ake still performs reasonably well. Only Otamendi (1.08) performs better in terms of tackles won (0.85 for Ake), while the Argentine is the only man to come out on top on average in more duels (4.95 to 4.55).

For aerial balls won, Ake's 2.48 on average per game fairs pretty well compared to Stones (2.92) and Otamendi (2.77) and is better than Laporte's (2.3) and Garcia's (1.25) – albeit the latter has played in far fewer games.

One area on the face of it where Ake excels is blocks and interceptions, where his 88 and 115 are higher than Otamendi's 22 and 99 – the next best of the five for those metrics.

But again there are caveats. When assessing the data on average per 90 minutes, both Otamendi (1.51) and Laporte (1.27) average more than Ake (1.12).

With blocks it appears simply a case of workload. Ake has faced 14.31 shots per 90 minutes. By contrast, Garcia (7.63), Stones (7.03), Otamendi (6.41) and Laporte (6.16) face significantly fewer.


KEEP THE BALL, PASS THE BALL

If you're a defender playing under Guardiola, you need to be as comfortable on the ball as you are off it.

Initial analysis on this department suggests Ake has work to do, although the amount of time City spend in possession certainly should help.

Ake's 3,853 successful passes is lower than Otamendi (5,393) and Laporte (4,580) despite having played the most games, while he ranks second behind the former in terms of successful passes in his own half (2,803) and only ahead of Garcia for successful passes in the opposition half (1,050) – where City defenders spend a lot of their time camped.

His passing accuracy of 85.7 is comfortably the worst, with Stones (94.69) leading the way.

Again, what is important to note here is that it should be expected City's defenders perform better with this measurement, given the amount of time they spend on the ball.

Indeed, City's possession average of 68.89 per cent far outweighs the 45.67 Bournemouth enjoy.

It stands to reason that Ake's numbers could easily improve in this regard when part of a team that, more often than not, will beat their opponents in the possession stats.


FOUL PLAY!

Okay, admittedly this section is a little mischievous…

You see, under Guardiola, City have earned a reputation (rightly or wrongly, we'll let you be the judge) for being somewhat adept at tactical fouls.

Over our time period, Ake has committed 64 fouls, more than Otamendi (57), Laporte (40), Stones (17) and Garcia (9).

When looking at the same factor over 90 minutes per game, Ake's 0.62 is lower than Garcia (1.03), Otamendi (0.87) and Laporte (0.72).

So, maybe there is a little bit of work to be done with that one…

Christian Pulisic believes he is in perfect condition ahead of the FA Cup final, adamant he never had a "real issue" despite Frank Lampard using him sparingly due to fitness concerns.

United States international Pulisic missed Chelsea's 3-1 win at Manchester United in the semi-final 11 days ago due to what Lampard described as a minor thigh injury.

The 21-year-old then only featured as a substitute in the 5-3 defeat to Liverpool on the penultimate day of the Premier League season, though in Chelsea's final match, Pulisic played 78 minutes against Wolves.

Lampard felt it was too much of a risk to start Pulisic against Liverpool, while his decision to bring him off against Wolves suggested there was still a hint of concern over his condition.

But Pulisic was dismissive of the apparent problem that concerned his boss.

"I never had a real issue," he told ESPN ahead of Saturday's final. "I'm 100 per cent fit.

"The final comes down to us against them, who is more ready to play on the day. Obviously, it gives us confidence that we've been in good form, we've been playing well and we're going to try and bring that into the game.

"In the end, it is one game and, in a final, anything can happen."

While many Chelsea fans will pin their hopes on Pulisic in the FA Cup showpiece, Arsenal supporters are likely to be even more expectant of his former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gunners striker scored 22 goals in 36 Premier League appearances for Arsenal in 2019-20 despite often being used from the left flank.

Pulisic is fully aware of the threat posed by his friend

"I know him quite well," Pulisic said. "He is incredible, the way he gets in good areas. He's always dangerous so we are definitely going to have to be cautious of that and they have some other good players, but he is definitely one guy that you have to look out for.

"We'll always be good friends. I played together with him for a long time. Right now, we are definitely focused and want to win.

"It is going to be a good battle and, not so much on the pitch, but we will always be friends off the pitch."

Both clubs will be out to win their first trophies under their incumbent head coaches.

A consortium led by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund has pulled out of a bid to buy Newcastle United.

A proposed £300m purchase of the Premier League club, backed by the PIF, whose chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been withdrawn largely due to the protracted nature of negotiations.

A statement initially carried by Sky Sports News on behalf of the PIF, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, confirmed: "With a deep appreciation for the Newcastle community and the significance of its football club, we have come to the decision to withdraw our interest in acquiring Newcastle United Football Club.

"We do so with regret, as we were excited and fully committed to invest in the great city of Newcastle and believe we could have returned the club to the position of its history, tradition and fans' merit.

"Unfortunately, the prolonged process under the current circumstances coupled with global uncertainty has rendered the potential investment no longer commercially viable.

"To that end, we feel a responsibility to the fans to explain the lack of alternatives from an investment perspective.

"As an autonomous and purely commercial investor, our focus was on building long-term value for the club, its fans and the community as we remained committed to collaboration, practicality and proactivity through a difficult period of global uncertainty and significant challenges for the fans and the club.

"Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club's owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained, particularly with no clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms that will arise for matches, training and other activities.

"As often occurs with proposed investments in uncertain periods, time itself became an enemy of the transaction, particularly during this difficult phase marked by the many real challenges facing us all from COVID-19.

"We feel great compassion for the Newcastle United fans, with whom we shared a great commitment to help Newcastle United harness its tremendous potential and build upon its impressive and historic legacy while working closely with the local community.

"We would like to say that we truly appreciated your incredible expressions of support and your patience throughout this process. We are sorry it is not to be.

"We wish the team and everyone associated with it much good luck and success."

Talk of the takeover has rumbled on for some months but the process has been far from smooth.

There has been opposition to the deal from human rights campaigners concerned about Saudi Arabia's welfare practices, while matters were complicated further when the World Trade Organization published a report that found representatives of the Kingdom had facilitated the breach of piracy laws through broadcasting network beoutQ.

BeoutQ has been accused of illegally showing live sport, including Premier League games, with broadcast rights in the Middle East belonging to Qatar-based beIN SPORTS.

According to the BBC, Saudi Arabia appealed against the WTO's decision.

Aston Villa have confirmed the appointment of Johan Lange as the club's new sporting director, following Jesus Garcia Pitarch's departure.

Pitarch – known as "Suso" – joined Villa in October 2018, but he came under fire after the club only narrowly avoided relegation despite spending in excess of £140million following their promotion from the Championship last year.

Villa announced Pitarch's departure on Tuesday, and they have moved quickly to bring in his replacement.

Lange joins from Copenhagen, having served as the Danish side's technical director for the past six years.

"Aston Villa is one of the most famous clubs in European football with a rich history, but it is also a progressive club looking to the future," Lange told the club's official website.

"I am excited and honoured to be given this opportunity to contribute to the club's ambitious strategy to become a force in Premier League football again."

One of Lange's first tasks could be to replace Jack Grealish, with Villa's captain having been heavily linked with a move away.

Avram Grant joked he would have been "sent to Siberia" by Roman Abramovich had he led Chelsea to a fourth-placed finish, but the former Blues boss is thrilled for Frank Lampard.

Chelsea's 2-0 victory over Wolves on the final day of the season ensured Lampard's side will be playing in the Champions League next term.

The Blues now have the FA Cup final against Arsenal to focus on, before they face Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie – though the Bundesliga winners hold a 3-0 aggregate lead.

In his sole season at the club in 2007-08, Grant guided Chelsea to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the Blues lost to Tottenham in the EFL Cup final and then succumbed to Manchester United on penalties to miss out on Champions League success.

Grant was sacked soon after that Champions League finale, and though he is thrilled that Lampard has taken Chelsea to the top four this season, he pointed out Abramovich did not give him such leniency 12 years ago.

"I think it's a good season, especially compared to how it began, without being allowed to buy players," Grant told Stats Perform News.

"Compared to the requirement of Roman Abramovich, if I told him some years ago that fourth place would be good for him, probably he would send me to Siberia.

"But because of the situation before, I think it's a good place. For Frank, I think it's a big achievement.

"It's his first year as a coach in the Premier League. Of course, he was a player with a lot of experience, but you cannot compare a player to a manager, and I think he's managed the team very well.

"A lot of young players and he knew how to play them, how to give them a rest and when to push them. It's a good base for the future, I was very pleased with his performance."

Grant also believes Lampard always had the right mentality as a player to become a top-level coach, with the former midfielder one of a number of players in the Chelsea squad of 2007-08 who showed such promise.

"I was sure, because he was always a leader. When you spoke with him, he had a different view about football," Grant said.

"In my team at Chelsea there was a lot of leaders. I thought [Michael] Ballack would be a good coach, Didier [Drogba], John Terry, because there was a good personality and a lot of knowledge about football.

"Of course, having the knowledge is not the same, you have to pass the knowledge to players, you have to deal with the owner, the media, you have to deal with the supporters.

"But at the end of the day, you depend on the performance on the pitch – it's results, especially at the top."

Jurgen Klopp and Andy Robertson have discussed their experiences of mental health challenges - revealing anguish over loved relatives not living to witness their greatest achievements.

Liverpool manager Klopp and his star left-back have taken part in the #SoundOfSupport series for the Heads Up campaign, which Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is spearheading.

Scotland international Robertson, now a Champions League and Premier League winner with the Reds, recalled the difficulties he encountered as a teenager being released by Celtic and the struggle of losing his aunt, a prominent supporter of his when growing up.

Speaking of his Celtic exit, Robertson said: "I was a normal 15-year-old lad so there were probably a few tears but my mum and dad got me my favourite curry that night.

"My auntie came up to the house and she told Mum: 'I'm telling you, he'll make it as a footballer.' And that's something that's always stayed with me.

"When I was at Dundee United, on Christmas Day, sadly she passed away. She was one that always believed I was something special even when probably nobody believed it when I was younger.

"But that is something that does bug me a little bit, that she's not seen me lifting the Champions League, lifting the Premier League and things like that."

That prompted Klopp to recall a similar experience when he lost his father shortly before becoming a manager.

"My dad never saw me as a manager. He died four months before I became a manager," the former Borussia Dortmund boss said.

"He pushed me through my [playing] career pretty much, with really harsh criticism and stuff like this, but now my real career, he never saw. That's hard from time to time."

The series is attempting to use the reach of football to get people to open up about their mental health, an issue particularly prominent over the past few months with the coronavirus pandemic consigning people to spend large periods of time at their homes.

"Uncertain I think, for all of us," Robertson said when asked about how he coped with lockdown.

"We have parents that are older, we have family that are in the so-called bracket of high risk. 

"I think football kind of took a step to one side, but we were all wanting the season to end."

Klopp replied: "There were moments in the lockdown when we thought it is a proper setback from all of our dreams.

"So it was a setback but it was a setback for all of us together, and we could calm each other down.

"[It] helps if you don't feel all the burden on your own shoulders. If you have a group of friends or a group of colleagues and you can create an atmosphere like this, that helps.

"I think there is no problem big enough or small enough that you cannot talk about it."

Robertson spoke about how his own experiences were exacerbated once he made it in the game.

"When I started making it professional that's when I struggled the most," he said.

"I was down in Hull on my own and people thought 'okay, he's a Premier League footballer, he's playing for Hull, he's getting a good wage' so then people would stop asking 'how are you?'. I used to be one who blocked everything up and thought 'my problems are my problems'.

"Now I feel so much better. I remember speaking to [my partner] Rach a year ago about something daft, something that was playing on my mind and after a 10-minute conversation with her I felt everything was off [my shoulders] and thought, 'yeah, I should do this a bit more often'."

Manchester City duo Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden, and Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard, appeared in separate videos for the campaign.

Germany international Gundogan spoke about the feeling of isolation during lockdown away from his family.

"For me growing up, the most important thing was always family. They were kind of like the psychologists for myself. [Now] I am in a different country, I don't know many people apart from the people from the club," he said.

"I have one friend over here who I saw during lockdown. The fact that I have spent a lot of time on my own and without family and friends during lockdown just showed me how important it is to have your loved ones close to you."

Lingard, who appeared alongside TV and radio presenter Maya Jama, revealed family issues had affected his performances on the pitch.

"Last season, I was going through some things off the field with my family so it was difficult for me to perform on the field," Lingard said.

"I'm very family orientated and my mum was going through some things last year with depression. So, in the meantime, I had to look after my little brother and sister who are 12 and 15. I was still performing at the same time.

"You just get to that point where you're like, I've got to actually say something. I spoke to my family and stuff like that. It felt so much better."

Luis Suarez is eager to stay at Barcelona amid MLS interest, while Chelsea may have a choice to make.

Suarez, 33, is out of contract at the LaLiga giants next year and has been linked with a move away.

The forward seemingly has options.

 

TOP STORY – SUAREZ WANTS BARCELONA STAY AMID INTER MIAMI INTEREST

Suarez has no intention of leaving Barcelona, according to Sport.

It comes after Mundo Deportivo reported Suarez has an offer from MLS club Inter Miami, but wants to extend his stay at Barca beyond 2021.

Suarez has scored 19 goals in 34 games in 2019-20.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are linked with further moves this close season. But Sport Bild reports Atletico Madrid are relaxed over the Premier League club's interest in Jan Oblak, with the LaLiga side doubting Chelsea can afford both the goalkeeper and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

- Philippe Coutinho is expected to make a permanent move from Barcelona. Mundo Deportivo claims Arsenal are best-placed to land the playmaker and Barca want only money for the Brazil international.

- Bayern Munich have set their price for Thiago Alcantara, who is linked with a move to Liverpool. Sport Bild says the Bundesliga champions want £27.2m (€30m) for the midfielder.

- Could Manchester City have received a transfer boost? Sport Bild reports David Alaba's contract talks with Bayern Munich are at a stalemate. Alaba is out of contract at Bayern next year and has been linked to City.

- Jesse Lingard's time at Manchester United could be over. The Daily Mail says United are prepared to sell the midfielder, who has been linked to Roma and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Brighton and Hove Albion have signed Netherlands international Joel Veltman from Ajax on a three-year contract.

The defender, who can play at right-back or centre-back, becomes Brighton's latest signing following the arrival of Adam Lallana from Liverpool.

Veltman came through the Ajax academy and played a part in three Eredivisie title triumphs.

The 28-year-old also featured in their run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals, although he has been hampered by injuries over the past two seasons.

Brighton head coach Graham Potter said: "We're delighted to welcome Joel to the club.

"He has terrific experience from his time with Ajax - including the Champions League - and, of course, with the Dutch national team.

"He's an excellent defender who can play at right-back and at centre-half, but he's also comfortable in possession. 

"He is really looking forward to the challenge of playing in the Premier League. We're delighted he is now a Brighton player and we're looking forward to working with him."

Manchester City have signed teenage defender Issa Kabore from Belgian First Division club Mechelen

Kabore, a 19-year-old Burkina Faso international, will spend next season back at Mechelen on loan, having penned a five-year contract at the Etihad Stadium.

The right-back moved to Belgium from Rahimo in his homeland last August and went on to make five first-team appearances in 2019-20.

A fee has not been disclosed for the transfer, which remains subject to international clearance.

"This is a win-win situation for all parties," said Mechelen sports director Tom Caluwe. 

"The player himself dreams of the Premier League and can calmly prepare for that step with us. 

"City has a clear path in mind and indicated that our club is important for the further development of Kabore. And this way we can still keep Issa in Mechelen."

Stats Perform News understands City are on the verge of their first major signing in preparation for 2020-21, with an initial £21.2million (€23m) fee agreed with Valencia for Spain Under-21 winger Ferran Torres.

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk is desperate for Naby Keita to avoid another injury-interrupted season in 2020-21 and prove to the Premier League he is "world class".

Keita, 25, joined the Reds from RB Leipzig in 2018 after earning rave reviews for the German side and their sister club Salzburg, where he spent two years until 2016.

In Germany, Keita marked himself out as one of the most promising midfielders in Europe – his ability on the ball and knack for scoring or creating goals seeing him attract interest from many of the world's biggest clubs.

Liverpool stole a march by securing his transfer – reportedly worth up to £54million – almost a year early, so sure were they in his abilities, but his first two seasons in the Premier League have been impacted by injuries.

His form since the season's resumption after the coronavirus hiatus has given cause for optimism, however, with the Guinea international setting up goals against Aston Villa and Brighton and Hove Albion, and scoring in the 5-3 win over Chelsea.

Van Dijk is thrilled to see Keita shining on the pitch and hopes the midfielder's fitness issues vanish next term.

"I'm just very happy for Naby," Van Dijk told Liverpool's official website. "Naby is a fantastic guy, he works so hard and he is an outstanding football player.

"We see it week in and week out. He has unfortunately been unlucky with some injuries, but hopefully he can stay fully fit for the next season.

"I think he is world class, if I'm absolutely honest. I see all the moments when he has the ball, the smart moves, the smart intelligence.

"It's just incredible to see and I'm very happy for him."

Keita featured 18 times in Liverpool's successful 2019-20 Premier League campaign, seven fewer than he managed the season before.

Wilfried Zaha is proud to see the likes of Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford being vocal in the fight against racial discrimination but believes social media platforms must do more to tackle abuse.

Crystal Palace winger Zaha has long been targeted by racist trolls online, revealing he was first sent abusive messages approximately 10 years ago.

With social media platforms growing in popularity over the past decade, it has become something of a regular occurrence to see top-level athletes sharing screenshots of abuse they have received.

England internationals Sterling and Rashford have both found themselves in such scenarios, while Zaha took similar action earlier in July – with a 12-year-old boy arrested on that occasion.

The current generation of players are taking a stand, highlighting abuse in hope of creating change, and Zaha is glad to be witnessing such action.

"Yes, we are [aiming to effect change]," he told CNN Sport. "I'm so happy when I see these other young black players just not having it anymore.

"I'm proud to see it because it's been too long. You can't just sit back and accept it. Enough is enough.

"How are you cheering me when I'm scoring? Then if I'm not doing what you're happy with, I'm a monkey again? How does that make any sense?

"So, I'm proud to see Raheem and Marcus speaking up and making a change."

But Zaha is convinced social media companies must take greater responsibility with respect to eliminating racist abuse.

"Even after the 12-year-old, I reported 50 accounts that I was racially abused from that week," Zaha added. "What happens? Those accounts get blocked then they just make a new one straight afterwards?

"With everything that we register for these days, we have to give some sort of I.D. Why is it not the same for Instagram, or Twitter? Because that's where people tend to say what they really feel about people, no matter how hurtful or racist it is.

"I've gone through my Instagram account and there's a section where you can block certain words.

"I've had to go and write racist words that I don't want to see on my account - the monkey sign, 'black this', 'black that'. All of it. I've tried myself because the social media platforms are obviously not doing enough.

"I know I speak for the majority of people going through this. I've seen Ian Wright and Raheem speak about it. It's not okay. Things have to be done. Words are not enough now. No more statements.

"You can register as a nine-year-old on Instagram and they [the company] wouldn't know. What age is it to register? Thirteen. The boy who abused me is 12. How does he even get on there? What checks are they making?"

Following the Premier League's resumption in June, the competition supported the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained traction after George Floyd – an African-American man – died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

Club jerseys were adorned with a 'Black Lives Matter' patch, while all players and officials took a knee at the start of every match until the end of the season, but Zaha is bemused that such lengths have to be taken in 2020.

"We shouldn't have to put Black Lives Matter to show that we matter on the back of our shirts," he continued.

"It's 2020. Why is it even in dispute? We shouldn't still be sat here saying we matter and giving reasons why.

"So, yes, it's nice to see this effort now being put towards it, but I hope that pressure is sustained. There's no point me having a full-blown interview here and then going back to racial abuse on my phone again."

Arsenal or Chelsea will face Liverpool in the Community Shield at Wembley Stadium on August 29, the Football Association (FA) has confirmed.

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal side will go head-to-head with their London rivals in the FA Cup final on Saturday, with the winner to take on the Premier League's champions.

With the 2020-21 top-flight campaign set to start on September 12, the FA has now announced its date for English football's traditional curtain-raiser.

Liverpool, who lost the Community Shield on penalties to Manchester City last season, had their first Premier League title wrapped up when Chelsea defeated Pep Guardiola's side on June 25.

Goalkeeper Alisson has revealed how he feels part of the Liverpool family thanks to the club's efforts to help him settle into life on Merseyside.

The Brazil international has enjoyed two hugely successful seasons with Jurgen Klopp's Reds since his arrival from Roma in July 2018.

After lifting the Champions League trophy at the end of his debut campaign, he helped Liverpool end a 30-year wait for a league title this year, albeit injuries and a suspension restricted him to 29 top-flight appearances.

The 27-year-old cost what was then a world-record fee for a keeper - Chelsea surpassing it soon after for Kepa Arrizabalaga - but has proved his value to the newly crowned Premier League champions since.

It is not just on the pitch where Alisson feels right at home, though.

"At this moment it means everything," he told the club's website as part of their 'Champions' series.

"The biggest part of my achievements in football I achieved for this club, through this club, individual and my team-mates, so it means a lot to me and my family. 

"Since we arrived here we could feel that it's a different club, a club who treats you as a family and can give you all the support that you need to play football, to stay focused on playing football. 

"So, we are comfortable here. We love being here. We also love the warmth that we receive from the supporters, they are part of this family as well."

Alisson's primary objective is obviously to keep the ball out of the net, yet he did manage to help Liverpool in attack when registering an assist in the league.

It was his quick clearance that set free Mohamed Salah for the second goal in the closing moments of Liverpool's 2-0 win over Manchester United in January. The first team-mate to celebrate with the scorer? The keeper who had set him up, of course.

"That was a big moment. For my whole life everybody will remember that goal, that assist," Alisson said, before going on to discuss his knee-sliding celebrations as he raced to join Salah. 

"I think the run, they remember more about the run! That is something that I never did before. I always like to celebrate with myself. 

"I try to stay focused on the game and I know that was the last minute of the game. Then the game was closed with that goal.

"I just felt from inside and I couldn't hold myself any longer and then I just ran to celebrate together."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.