Aquilani is waving goodbye permanently to Merseyside
With Brendan Rodgers in for Swansea's Joe Allen, Italian flop Alberto Aquilani is being allowed to return to his home-country with Fiorentina. Here's why the talented midfielder never made it at Anfield...
Alberto Aquilani’s Liverpool nightmare looks set to come to an end as, according to reports, he is on the verge of sealing a permanent move back to Italy with Fiorentina. The Viola have agreed a deal with the Merseyside club and personal terms have been sorted with the player. With just a compromise between Liverpool and Aquilani regarding a potential payoff needing to be reached before the transfer can be completed, his departure would finally bring an end to a long-running saga that has seen the man dubbed ‘Il Principo’ deemed surplus to requirements by three consecutive Reds managers.
Upon signing for Liverpool in the summer of 2009 as a replacement for Xabi Alonso, then manager Rafa Benitez famously claimed that Aquilani could have cost £30m had he been fit when they signed him – and now that prophecy frustratingly rings true. When totalling his transfer and signing on fees, wages and likely payoff, Aquilani will have cost the Reds well over £35m. Any transfer fee received for him would be nominal, and would likely go towards heavily subsidising his scandalous £125k per week wages as Fiorentina are only willing to pay him €2m per year (equating to around £30k per week).
For someone who had so little playing time, Aquilani divided opinion between fans like few players ever have at Anfield - and still the debate rages on. Even now there is still clamour from some supporters for Brendan Rodgers to keep the Italian and give him a chance to showcase his talents in a more attractive, possession-based style of football, of which they claim he would thrive in. Others just see this as damage limitation and want the club – and player - to bite the bullet and move on.
Aquilani’s talent has never been in question; his mentality and attitude, however, have
Replacing a fan-favourite like Alonso was always an unenviable task, and the fact that Aquilani missed pre-season through injury and was not fully fit until November it even more difficult for the Italian to adjust to his new surroundings. Still, irrespective of his transfer fee, experience or reputation, judging a player coming from a different country and having to adapt to a new language, lifestyle and, most importantly, style of play, on 12 starts (26 appearances) is extremely harsh, but such is the way of modern day football.
Aquilani’s talent has never been in question; his mentality and attitude, however, have. Whilst at Anfield he would often complain of being injured, when he was checked over by the Reds medical team they couldn’t diagnose any problems. His agent, Franco Zavaglia, would do the same thing every summer: claim his client is happy in England and will definitely stay with Liverpool, whilst actively offering him out to any potential suitors. Aquilani never appeared to possess the desire and application to succeed in the Premier League, and he is suited to the slower pace of his native Serie A where he gets more time on the ball.
After two relatively successful years out on loan at Juventus and Milan respectively, Aquilani could still not secure a permanent move back to the Peninsula. Both teams had the option to sign the midfielder for a previously agreed fee, but instead secured superior replacements – in Juve’s case it was Andrea Pirlo; in Milan’s it was Ricardo Montolivo – for free, meaning Aquilani’s future was still unclear. Coincidentally, it looks like Montolivo’s departure from Fiorentina to Milan may have presented Aquilani with the chance to get his career back on track.
The signing of Aquilani, like most of the transfer business towards the end of Benitez’s tenure, was disastrous
His signing was symptomatic of the tumultuous state Liverpool found themselves in back in 2009. Despite narrowly missing out on the Premiership title the previous season, off the field the Reds were in a state of chaos. The signing of Aquilani, like most of the transfer business towards the end of Benitez’s tenure, was disastrous. Despite speaking highly of him, Rafa seemingly had no idea how to fit the Italian in to his side and get the best out of him, leading many to question why he signed him in the first place.
Compare that to Liverpool’s pursuit of Swansea’s Joe Allen, who thrived under Brendan Rodgers during his time in South Wales. There may be more established players available, but clearly Allen is a player who knows what the manager requires from his midfielders and possesses the qualities to fill a specific role in the side. The Welshman has been identified as a player who will fit seamlessly in to the Swansea-esque tiki-taka system, and the interest in the player is understandable. Liverpool finally have a blueprint from which to build on and their dealings in the transfer market will hopefully be more measured and successful in the future.
At 28, Aquilani should be in the prime of his career, yet the past three years have seen his stock plummet. Once regarded as one of the most promising midfielders in Europe, he will now forever be remembered as one of the worst signings in Premier League history. He is a talented player - you don’t play for four of the biggest clubs in Europe unless you are – but his propensity to injuries has prevented him from fulfilling his potential. He still has time to prove himself again, and maybe a move to a smaller club with less pressure on him is just what he needs.
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