Alberto Aquilani is a name often touted by Rafael Benitez’s detractors as being one of many expensive flops signed by the Spaniard. Yet the accusation couldn’t be further from the truth.
Aquilani’s first season at Liverpool was admittedly far from successful, but neither was it a complete write-off.
Due to injury the Italian only managed to start 12 games, whilst making 13 appearances from the bench. The majority of his appearances coming off the bench were in the latter stages of games, when the Italian had little time to make an impact and was still recovering from injury.
Yet despite having just 12 starts to his name, and just over the same number of appearances off the bench, Aquilani managed an impressive six assists and one league goal – a good return bearing in mind Liverpool struggled throughout the season in the final third of the pitch.
Since moving on loan to Juventus Aquilani has featured in seven of the nine games the Turin outfit have played in their Serie A campaign, starting five and coming on from the bench in two. In the games he’s featured the 26-year-old has managed to contribute a goal.
The fact Aquilani has already contributed a goal, something he managed only once in the league during his time at Anfield, is encouraging, even though the former Roma man has yet to assist any goals. More encouraging though is the fact that Alberto has remained fit and featured in the majority of Juventus’ league games this season.
Looking away from the stats and on to the pitch and further improvements can be seen. Alberto is incredibly clever on the ball, rarely being caught in possession and often triggering a number of attacking moves. On top of that Aquilani’s defensive performances have also been good, with the Italian never afraid to get stuck in to challenges and often getting his side out of sticky situations.
At Liverpool this season the centre of the park has been one of the side’s weaker points, with little creativity coming from anyone apart from new signing Raul Meireles. Lucas and Poulsen, whilst fairly sturdy as defensive midfielders, are not the most creative or attack-minded players.
This has led to Liverpool’s goal scoring problem from last season being escalated in this campaign, and you have to wonder how much different it would have been if Roy Hodgson had Aquilani amongst those he could choose from.
Admittedly at times the Italian seemed to have difficulty with the pace of the English game, but the vast majority of players who come to England face the same problem, for example it took Cristiano Ronaldo a couple of seasons to get in to the flow of things at Manchester United – now he is widely considered to be one of the best players in the world.
Aquilani’s fitness is also still an issue. Whilst he has remained fit during his time in Turin it is important that this lasts throughout the season. Should this be the case then it would be hard to argue that he should at least be considered for a move back to England.
Aquilani has remained fit and put in some fantastic performances since his arrival in Turin, and should that continue through the rest of the season then Liverpool should make sure Juventus don't utilise their option to buy the player and bring him back to Anfield.