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Is Liverpool’s Alberto Aquilani destined to be an English Premier League flop for life?

The latest reports today have revealed that Alberto Aquilani, who arrived at Liverpool from AS Roma for a hefty transfer fee of £20 million two years ago, will not return to Fiorentina on a loan deal this season.

The Italian, who has made just 18 league appearances for Liverpool since his transfer to the club in 2009, wants his future sorted out in the near future, targeting either a permanent transfer back to Italy, or a confirmed future with the Reds.

The failures of 2009

Aquilani arrived from the Italian capital as a direct replacement for the departing Spaniard, Xabi Alonso, who completed a £30 million move to Real Madrid. However Aquilani was injured when he was signed, so he was automatically at a disadvantage by not being able to partake in Liverpool’s pre-season of 2009.

It was November 9 by the time Aquilani made his Premier League debut for the club, but his first start in England did not come until Liverpool played against the Wolverhampton Wanderers on December 26. Effectively by the time Aquilani was ready to play, he could be treated as a January transfer signing.

An honest assessment of Aquilani’s performances from January onwards would be that they were neither here nor there. But weighing his performances against the expectation that came as being Alonso’s replacement, they were nowhere near the standard of Anfield’s beloved Spaniard.

Smart business

Given that the player was signed for a considerable sum of money, it came to the surprise of many Liverpool supporters that Aquilani was permitted a loan move back to Italy to Juventus, after just one season on the Merseyside.

But the move to the Bianconeri was smart business for Liverpool, a team well stocked with central midfielders. First team starts were always going to limited for the Italian international, particularly when at the time of the loan move, Liverpool still had Javier Mascherano and a fit Steven Gerrard.

As a result of injury, Aquilani had played very little first team football for over 2 years, and it was vital for Liverpool that they got some game time into their midfielder. By sending Aquilani out on loan, the Italian managed 33 appearances in the Italian Serie A for the Old Lady, far more than he would have had at Anfield. Aquilani recorded his largest number of appearances in a topflight campaign in his career last term.

If Juventus had chosen to purchase his services outright – an option that was available to them – then Liverpool would have received back an acceptable return from their original outlay. Since Juventus did not exercise the option, Liverpool have a footballer who has now returned, fit, confident and in form.

The new regime

Of course, since Aquilani was loaned out, there has been a massive upheaval at Anfield that has led to a change of owners and manager.

New manager Kenny Dalglish has kept his cards close to his chest, but clearly he is open to the idea of Aquilani being offloaded on loan yet again, in order to reduce the club’s monstrous wage bill. With Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson added to an already burgeoning midfield, there must be exits from the Merseyside before the start of the new season.

But after watching Aquilani display his considerable talent during Liverpool’s pre-season tour of Asia, owner John W. Henry seems to have different ideas when he tweeted: “One missing link last year: Aquilani.”

Winning a place in King Kenny’s starting line-up will be extremely difficult this term, but if the man from Rome can stay fit, there is no reason why he can’t conquer the obstacles put before him.

Can Alberto Aquilani cement a place in Liverpool’s first team or should he return to Italy?

Thu 28 July, 2011
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