Nicknamed ‘Il Principino’ or ‘the little prince’, Alberto Aquilani is a central midfielder who can dominate a holding role, or play in the pocket behind a striker. At 16 the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea were vying for his signature in what would be the Italian’s first professional contract. His future, however, lay with AS Roma, a club whom he had supported and had him on their books from an extremely early age. Arsenal and Chelsea’s interest was substantiated when Alberto began his career in the first team for Roma just over a year later.
After the absence of Xabi Alonso at the end of the 2008-2009 season, Aquilani was brought in as his ‘replacement’. Many likened his smooth touches and long passing to the man he was originally brought in to replace, but his move wasn’t all Liverpool fans had dreamt it to be. After undergoing ankle surgery Alberto looked to miss a good portion of his first season at Anfield, and allowing for time to build his match fitness, and Rafa’s hesitance to play him, it was destined that we would never see anything but glimpses of the man we dreamt would orchestrate our midfield.
So the question we have to answer at this point is; Should Alberto Aquilani return to Liverpool? My vote is towards a resounding ‘yes’, but that could just be because I was unlucky enough to have his name printed on the back of my shirt this season, and I really would like to wear it again.
In my opinion, some of those glimpses were enough to decide whether Aquilani was good enough to wear the Liverpool shirt. Who can forget his goal against Atletico in the Europa league last season? If it wasn’t for him, we’d have been out of that game long before we were. Alberto’s shot gave us the ability and confidence to go on and score a goal which could have sent us through to the finals. He brought hope back to the Anfield faithful at the most important of times in an otherwise heartbreaking campaign. This in itself is perhaps reason enough to give him a second chance.
Take a look at the likes of Lucas Leiva, absolutely abysmal in his first few seasons at Liverpool, and now arguably our best performing player in the current campaign. It takes time to adapt, and whilst we can all appreciate the disappointment of an underperforming player – just look at Fernando Torres in what proved to be his last few months with the club – sometimes class and form are worth waiting for. Alberto Aquilani has the kind of class that is worth waiting for, and why wouldn’t we keep a player whose bulleted passing can split defences in two?
The truth is that Liverpool could really use Aquilani right now. With Meireles potentially out injured, and Steven Gerrard and compatriot Joe Cole working towards match fitness, we are struggling to fill the gaps in these areas. We need someone whose presence on the pitch dictates the way we play alone. Whose creativity and ability inspire a better performance from the players around him. Aquilani arguably has this quality. He can bring dimension to our game in the same way that Steven Gerrard does, in the same way Raul Meireles has done under Kenny Dalglish. All I know is that I would much rather see a player of Aquilani’s ability playing alongside Lucas or behind Luis Suarez rather than bringing Christian Poulsen into the mix.
As much as it pains me to say it, perhaps Roy had a point in shipping Alberto out in order to allow him to find his feet. However, to let a player of his calibre (and expense) leave at the end of this season without so much as a second chance seems scandalous, especially considering his current run of form in Turin. From the snippets of Serie A I have watched this season, Aquilani has seemed to shine for Juventus. Arguably, he may be considered one of their stand-out performers for the campaign so far. His presence has seemingly been felt in a number of important matches, and he’s managed to rack up two fantastic goals for his efforts. Now imagine what Kenny Dalglish could bring out of a player with this kind of talent…?
It seems to me that Christian Poulsen was brought into Liverpool to provide many of the same attributes that Lucas already brings to our midfield setup, and whilst this may be useful if the Brazilian is to ever become injured, he rarely seems to be. The strength in depth we need is edged towards our creative side, and Christian Poulsen simply cannot provide this in the way that Aquilani can. Playing Poulsen and Lucas alongside each other seems to spell disaster, and it leaves our midfield uncreative and extremely negative – perhaps the aim of Kenny’s predecessor, but not suited for our style of play under The King.
The truth is, I’ve always been a fan of Aquilani, and I’ve always wanted him to fit into our plans of the future. He is young, talented, and can be dangerous in front of goal – everything the new owners claim to want to build a team around. Poulsen seems to be none of these things, and whilst the argument for bringing back Aquilani should not hinge on a comparison to the Dane, it does have a part to play. Aquilani cost us a lot of money, and we have not seen more than a glimpse of our investment yet. Give him two seasons, let him adapt to the Premier League, give him chance to prove his worth. We didn’t give him this before, he was shipped out before he had a chance to shine. Let’s see what he’s made of before we give up on him. If Juventus want a £4 million midfielder, they can have Poulsen, we’ll take our ‘little prince’ back.