Benitez explains slow start to Aquilani’s Liverpool career

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez says he has not rushed new £18million midfielder Alberto Aquilani back into action after his ankle injury with the long-term success of the player in mind.

Despite the Italian making his debut over a month ago in the Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal, he has seen little first team action since.

But Benitez explains that he always knew it would take time to ease Aquilani into the English game and had the club purchased a fully-fit midfielder of his quality, the price tag would have been much more.

He said, “If he had been fully fit maybe he could have cost £25-30million, so we were bringing in a good player for a good price and trying to do our best with the medical staff,” the Spanish coach said.

“The player is fit and training, but match fitness is something you can improve by playing games. So why have I not been playing him? Because the games are so close that if you put a player on the pitch who is not physically ready, maybe he cannot settle down in time.

“If it is 1-0, like it was against Debrecen the other day, they are attacking a bit more and if you changed Lucas, Steven Gerrard or Javier Mascherano, maybe you’re making a mistake as you will lose the control.

“If you are losing you can play the player, because maybe then he can change the game with his quality. Likewise, if we were winning 3-0 in the first half of every game he would be playing because it would be easier for him to settle down.

“We have a special plan for him, working with the fitness coach because that way we can improve his strength and his stamina in the gym, and with a player of such quality, we have to do what is right for him and right for the team.”

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