Aaron Cutler

Columnist

Will he stay or will he go? The Alberto Aquilani Dilemma

Aaron discusses the future of Alberto Aquilani, who has returned to Liverpool after two seasons away.

GREAT change has swept through Liverpool Football Club this summer. Critical decisions on matters ranging from team management to kit sponsorship have helped usher in a new era. But with Brendan Rodgers‘ reign set to begin in earnest the futures of certain players remain unclear. Signings will inevitably be made in the coming month but equally important is clarifying where our ‘forgotten men’ will be plying their trade in 2012/13.

An unflattering tag, this group consists of a handful of first teamers. Danny Wilson has failed to make the grade at Anfield since Roy Hodgson signed him that fateful summer. Will he realistically challenge the likes of Agger, Skrtel and Coates for a first team berth? Also snared that same pre-season was Joe Cole, who appears to have been handed a second chance this coming term but whose fitness and wages continue to raise questions. An interesting case is that of Dani Pacheco. Loaned for consecutive seasons his undoubted ability has failed to win him the trust of successive managers. A product of the Barcelona youth academy he may flourish under Rodgers, who awarded him a start in Saturday’s pre-season duel with Toronto.

Striker Nathan Eccleston meanwhile will also look to stake a claim this season. Applying him to this bunch may sound odd but remember he made his debut as far back as 2009. Like Pacheco he is now 21 and at a make-or-break point in his fledgling career. A regular at reserve team level with League One experience he must surely shine on tour to carve-out a future with the Reds.

And then we move to perhaps the most high-profile case of them all: Alberto Aquilani. The Anfield Cat has seen more competitive action at Liverpool than the Italian these past two years. A monumental flop? An untapped saviour? He divides opinion like Russell Brand does women’s legs. And entering his fourth year ‘at’ the club, surely it’s now or never for the man once dubbed The Little Prince.

There appears to be three determining factors surrounding Aquilani’s immediate future. The first is the playmaker himself and his somewhat questionable desire to stay on Merseyside. His settling-in period was blighted by injury and the general regression of the team itself. Replacing Xabi Alonso, a modern-day Legend, was never going to prove easy – particularly on the back of a second placed finish. As it proved AA was missing in action until October and entered the fray only when the side had begun freefalling towards a lowly seventh place.

Given the exhaustive wait for his debut there was never likely to be a honeymoon period. His agile build was exploited by an unforgiving Premier League, leading to long stretches out of the side and widespread condemnation of the transfer itself.

In spite of all the drama supporters were treated to occasional glimpses of class and clues as to why Rafa Benitez negotiated a £17 million outlay. Aquilani is classy in possession and can spray the ball about with great aplomb. He links play well and also has a goal in him, albeit far from prolific. Memorable strikes against Portsmouth and Atletico Madrid underlined his quality yet fitness and physicality hindered his overall progress. Rather than honing his game and adapting in the way Lucas has, he was loaned … twice … in two years.

Last season his general play at AC Milan won plaudits nonetheless again he was underused. Now back at Melwood he needs to make his intentions clear. Is a player of his ability ever farmed-out for two years if he has a genuine desire to make the grade at LFC? No. Therein lies the problem. Does Aquilani want it enough? Would he rather be back home showcasing his talents in Serie A? Given his eye-watering wage (rumoured to be around £100k per week) the club must address his limbo and fast. The Fenway Sports Group have consistently lamented our current payroll, haemorrhaging funds which could be put towards transfers. Paying Aquilani and Cole by the bucket-load is absurd unless both are genuinely key to Rodgers long-term ambitions.

The second factor dictating the fate of Aqualoanee is the number of – or rather lack of – suitors. Milan, initially keen on a permanent transfer, have shied away like Ryan Giggs at a family gathering. Murmurings of Italian interest seem to have died and last month we had the bizarre occurrence of his agent implying he will stay in-light of an embarrassing lack of interest. Far from enthusiastic and hardly the attitude which endears a client to his fan-base.

It has been suggested in some quarters that the club may cut their losses and simply terminate his contract. There is definite logic to that argument but the likelihood of it actually transpiring is surely remote. Perhaps a waiting game will ensue, with club officials and the player himself patiently hoping a respectable offer is tabled – one that appeases all parties. Holding out for that trump-card is however both risky and costly.

Brendan Rodgers meanwhile cannot be ignored in this stand-off. After all his will be the deciding vote. If he can see Aquilani starring in his progressive tiki-taka set-up the Italian may yet revive his Anfield career. And that scenario is by no means beyond comprehension. Rodgers preaches possession, possession, possession – evidenced on Saturday where Aquilani fared OK alongside Jay Spearing. If afforded time he is useful on the ball and perhaps a more attractive option in that respect than either Jordan Henderson or Charlie Adam. Indeed the future of the latter may tie-in with Aquilani’s.

Rumours abound of interest from Fulham and should Adam depart for Craven Cottage the door may open for our favourite part-timer. A midfield trio of Gerrard, Lucas and Aquilani is workable in this current system and would offer good creativity. This triad, supplementing two wingers/forwards and a lone striker could certainly provide the attacking football promised by our new boss.

Of course the aforementioned is all hypothetical. The truth is Alberto Aquilani remains an enigma that Liverpool are still to truly decide on. Crucially however they are all but out of thinking time. A final call must be made in this transfer window. Let’s hope it’s the right one.

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Aaron has been writing for us since 2006. His column focuses on the Reds fortunes both home and abroad with insightful, analytical and humorous comment. His flair for writing has led to work placements at LFC TV, Loaded and Zoo magazines, the Southern Daily Echo and Quay Radio. He is also a feature writer for Country Music People Magazine. Having graduated with a degree in Multi-Media Journalism Aaron is now looking for paid work in the writing industry.

  • Henrik

    Hope he stays. Class act

  • dilip yadav

    deserves chance ahead of adam and henderson

  • Rederik

    Kenny may have made some doubtful signings but Aquilani was definitively one of Rafas he should never have been brought into the team in the injured state he was in, the initial 17 million and God knows what medical fee,s later it is fair to say he has done virtually f–k all for Liverpool F.C and will turn out to be just another waste of millions of pounds on top of the countless millions already wasted over the rebuild or refurbish fiasco and poor signings made over the last two years, it,s no wonder the supporters get frustrated Liverpool F.C can not afford any more f–k ups on this kind of scale, we don,t have a sugar daddy baling us out, the present management team need to learn from our recent history and not repeat the same mistakes.

    • Bob

      Did Rafa send him out on loan for two years? No. That’s why he’s done little for Liverpool: he was signed for five years, not for a few months. We got at least £5 million off the fee beause he was injured. If Rafa had stayed, he’d have become a quality addition to our first team, beause the manager knew how to use his abilities most effectively.

  • Big Jon

    I thought it was Benitez who had already set the Danny Wilson transfer up, can anyone clarify this? thanks.

    • ssrh

      It was Rafa. But it was £2m only. Peanuts considering he had played in the CL and played well for Rangers that season.

  • ssrh

    Enough of Alberto already. He was signed when Owen Hargreaves, Louis Saha and Mikey Owen would have passed the Anfield Medical with flying colours. He might have been a bit frail, but he never lacked for skill. If Purslow wasn’t playing Football Manager and signed Joe Cole entirely on Gerrard and Carra’s advice then he might have succeeded. Wasnt it Carra who wanted to have english conversation when the wives went out to dinner. Right. And How Joe Cole was no less than Messi according to no less an authority than Gerrard. So, we got stuck with JC just because LFC was being run by Purslow, Gerrard and Carra. Rafa was not even invited to Carra’s testimonial. Kenny came in and bought Light feather weight Adam and hairgel Jordan and shipped him out with the stupid loan clause with the 1/2 game clause. Blame Rafa ! Blame Aqua! But Blame Gerrard. Purslow and Carra for their role in this as well. The only reason LFC doesn’t wave Joe Cole is because of Gerrard and Carra. What do we LFC owe a Chelsea Retiree. He sold Chelsea to Eden Hazard when he was on loan. I say if we want to dissect anyone it should be Joe cole not Aqua. The aquaman wanted to be here. The Anfield Mafia didn’t.

    • Joe

      Idiot

    • http://www.facebook.com/Mark.H.Kurtz Mark Kurtz

      AA wanted a permanent move to AC 2 years ago…never wanted to be at LFC. Wait to see on his premier league talent but Adam seems lost, slow and just lost most of the time so maybe a little creativity will do the midfield some good.

      • Bob

        Aquilani has said on two occasions, “I want to play regularly”. That sums it up. He is happy to play for Liverpool, so long as he is given a chance to show what he can do on a regular basis. Nobody celebrates as he did when he scored if they were unhappy a club. He was euphoric – go bak and check the footage to see.
        The only part about returning to Italy ahead of staying here would be for a return to Roma, the club he never really wanted to leave. No-one could blame him for that, as it is precisely the same scenario as with Robbie Fowler.

    • stormdrain

      Show some respect. What right do you have to question SG’s and JC’s input to LFC? They’ve done a million times more than you have for the club.

      • ssrh

        I don’t get paid millions to play and say nice things about LFC. I am a fan of the club, who works the night shift to afford a jersey. I wont applaud players who have over stayed their welcome, Shanks always moved then on before their time was up .I don’t mind player input. A bit of tapping up always happens. But, to use how your missus cant talk to other players wives when out for dinner as a reason to sign English is daft. These players will have my respect when they are out of the club, not in the payroll sitting on the bench.

        • Bob

          At this point in time, I’d far rather Rafa were here than Gerrard and Carragher put together. Even at the very peak of their abilities, I’d still go for Rafa: the man is a managerial genius (and don’t take my word for it – that’s what Didi Hamann said about Rafa in his autobiography).

        • http://www.facebook.com/michael.midghall Michael Midghall

          Absolutely , so much for scouse hospitality, there again he did start life as a bluenose

        • stormdrain

          Just remembered why I don’t normally get involved in forums. Too many people talking s**t when they should be keeping their own counsel because they’re ignorant. My fault.

          • ssrh

            Your comments are full of words like respect, question, s*it, ignorant, fault. You are acting like you are our betters. This is a forum of equals. We all love LFC from all parts of the globe of all ages, color etc.Why go along condescending lines and then back away claiming you are superior. What have you said so far to prove it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/skaidon Adam Roberts

    I’d like to see Aquilani get a decent run of games as a last chance. I’ve always been disappointed that he hasn’t had that opportunity through ill luck or just bad management. His agent needs a good dose of stfu as well.

    I think Aquilani fits in the team way better than Adam. I think Henderson still has potential, but Adam has to go – he as NEVER good enough and never will be.

    Don’t forget the potential signing of Joe Allen, which would certainly indicate – if it comes to fruition – that Rodgers doesn’t need Aquilani…

    • Tim Jones

      ‘I think Aquilani fits in the team way better than Adam’

      That’s because he’s a far better player than Adam – and Henderson, Shelvey, Spearing and Allen (if we sign him) for that matter

      Given that he’s already ours and better than most of our central midfielders surely he deserves a chance – and if it doesn’t work out we can let him go in January

      From what I remember, the few times I saw him play in the 2009-10 season, he looked pretty good – especially so in a man-of-the-match performance against Portsmouth

      If we let him go for f*** all now – it really can be written off as a disastrous LFC transfer

      • Bob

        I’d be almost crying out of sheer frustration if I were Aquilani. The number of inferior players who have been talked up and chosen ahead of him is just scandalous.

  • redBalloon

    Sell Adam, loan Hendo, keep Aqua and buy Allen.

    • ironmike911

      I agree completely, in fact offer Adam in exchange for Allen. Good article too Aaron.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Mark.H.Kurtz Mark Kurtz

    LFC need to look at the final 3rd and not the middle 3rd. Someone like Gaston Ramirez brings the creativity and confident feet needed along with control and power. He would be the perfect linkup man, like Iniesta for Barca. LFC need someone to help Stevie and he looks to be the man in my eyes.

  • rubyrm

    Downing, Adam, Cole, Henderson. Out. AA is a skillful player and will be an asset to any MF. He was sacrificed by Kenny and loaned out for the above flops who eventually cost Him his job.

  • El Fig

    I think the Aquaman might be given a chance, in every video on the website he is there in the heart of the training exercises and I think he is a type of player that Rodgers appreciates. If you consider how we were after Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aquilani is a player who would play in a similar position with not as much defensive duties as other midfielders, and could fit into the system. He’s really clever with the ball, looks to go forward and he has class. It even looks like he’s got some pals and is having a good time. The only question seems to be can he stand up to the rigours of the Premier League – time will tell, but as a reds fan, I’d like to see him given the chance of a full season.

  • tommygun

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that Aquilani has real ability….the question is whether he has the desire, and the stomach for the fight and physicality of the premier league. I’ve no problem with him getting a chance though, it would be a boost if he could adapt and throw himself into the prem. One way or the other the club needs to find out & resolve the situation. We’ve been messed around with him by two Italian clubs who have made an agreement and then tried to bargain us down to an absolute pittance for him. I wouldn’t let him go out on loan to another Italian team, either he plays here or we get a fee for him and move him on.

    • Bob

      The ‘physicality’ issue is a nonsense. If people go back and actually watch him in ation in 2009/10, they’ll see that he doesn’t shirk tackling duties, even if he will never clatter anyone a la Tommy Smith. If Beckham can hurdle a tackle against Brasil (2002 World Cup), and easily survive the Premier League, then so can Aquilani.

      • ssrh

        I hate this English press line of physical, gut, bravery, tryer. Unless we get out of the Jamie Carragher school of Hoof ball and scott parker school of my face against the ball sort of hero worship, our club will be stuck at 8th. England did all that with so much bravery in the Euro’s, Italy did the panacea. Go figure who went to the finals and who went home.

  • Bob

    Well, you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence. We’ve got to hope that it’s the right decision (of course, to keep Aquilani), because it certainly wasn’t the right one to appoint Rodgers ahead of Rafa.

  • ianmcd31

    If anyone is in doubt as to what Aquilani could bring to liverpool then check out Aquilani v Portsmouth on you tube, for further evidence check out the footage of him on our pre season tour last year. I’d love to see this guy have the opportunity to be fully integrated into our squad this season coming. I’d rather Rogers persuasive powers work on Aqua than Siguardson!

  • vaper

    if alberto is a flop what do u say about Henderson,Adam,Downing and Carroll onlike Alberto these players had a full season with Liverpool FC how much time did Alberto had with the club