By Pete Karl
We need to talk about Alberto.
Yea, the Italian guy. The one with the long hair, who can’t speak English very well. So what if his eyes are a little too close together? Get over it. Everyone has a cross-eyed friend. Besides, he can probably see things you can’t. Especially on the football pitch, where he has impeccable vision- and the kind that fits perfectly into how Brendan Rodgers sees Liverpool playing next season.
This week, like many Liverpool players fighting for a place in Rodger’s squad, Alberto Aquilani arrived in Boston with a point to prove: that he’s ready for Premier League football.
We sure hope so. Finally, it seems Aquilani is staying put. With his agent calling another loan to AC Milan ‘impossible’ and the player stating his desire to play at Anfield this year, I feel like the 28-year-old midfield maestro is a long lost mail order that took three years to arrive. He’s a prized package, I feel, but one covered in ‘Fragile’ stamps.
Why do I feel this way? Because Liverpool has spent the last two seasons starving for a playmaker and Aquilani has been on their books that entire time. His creativity and clinical passing ability would have been really nice to have on those many Saturdays spent struggling to unlock a Stoke City defense.
After all, Rafa Benitez saw something in this guy when he purchased him from Roma for roughly £18 million in 2009. Again: Eighteen. Million. Pounds. Sure, we can accuse Rafa of a slutty wallet when it came to some transfers, but In Rafa We Trust. Am I right? He always had an eye for foreign talent and Aquilani was a major purchase for a club with a Xabi Alonso sized hole in its midfield. (One can argue a slightly smalled Yossi Benayoun sized hole as well.) Yet, because of consecutive year-long loans to Juventus and AC Milan, he’s never gotten a real chance in Red. (Well, Liverpool red that is.)
Check out these kinda cool tidbits I discovered about Aquilani on Twitter:
- From @OptaJoe on Aug 20, 2010, just after he was loaned to Juventus: ‘136 – Alberto Aquilani set up a goal every 136 minutes (in 2009/2010 for Liverpool) – the best assist rate in the top five leagues in Europe that season. Homesick.’
We let him go, why?
- From @OptaPaolo on June 20, 2011, after completing his loan to Juventus: ‘1750 – last season Alberto Aquilani attempted the most passes at Juventus, with an 80% accuracy. Anfield?’
That’s 1450 passes completed, including his numerous low-percentage flicks and tricks. Imagine him and Suarez?
- From @John_W_Henry on July 16, 2011, after a sparkling preseason display against Malaysia XI: ‘One missing link last year: Acquilani. Put the ball near Ngog and the goal and it’s going in. Too much talk of them somewhere else.’
Never mind the horrendous typo and the belief that David N’Gag Me was some sort of goal-mongering octopus, even the baseball-loving owner noticed Alberto’s magic!
So, per favore, can we give this man a chance in Red?
Of course, the argument against Aqua goes like this: ‘He’s always injured and easily homesick.’ Admittedly, Rafa might’ve forgotten to read the fine print on Aquilani, which reads: ‘handle with care’. I’ll give Rafa the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think he was fluent in Italian at the time.
Rumor has it Aqua has a patent pending for the ‘perma-knacked ankle’, the worlds most oft-injured leg joint. One, I will have you know, that is very important to playing football. In the crunching culture of English football, Aquilani’s invention is sure to pass tests of frailty. Here’s to hoping Liverpool team doctor and owner of the world’s coolest name, Zaf Iqbal, has acquired some titanium-laced ankle bandages this offseason.
Excuse my pessimism about Aquilani’s injury record. He’s actually been on a healthy run of late, making 41 total appearances last season (30 for AC Milan, 11 for Italy) and 34 for Juventus the season prior. That’s after his plagued 2009/10 debut season with Liverpool where a nagging ankle injury kept him from starting a match until January 13. Had he been healthy and in form, things could have been so different. As for the homesickness, he was 25 then, he’s 28 now. And judging by the professional way he handled preseason training under Dalglish last season, I’d say he’s a big boy now.
I’d also say, unlike the past few seasons, Aqua can thrive in our overhauled style of play. We’ve heard the hype about Rodgers’s desire for tiki-taka style football. “Possess. Pass. Move.” – The caramel, fudge, and sprinkles of a modern football sundae. Aquilani fits perfectly into this parfait. For two years, he was too exotic a topping for Vanillamen Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish. But now, we have a progressive manager with a sophisticated appetite for a tasty gourmet sundae made with best thing to come out of Italy since some dude killed a baby cow, sprinkled some capers on it and called it Veal Piccata. I’m talking about gelato, the sweet, eggy Italian ice cream that wants to put your local Dairy Queen out of business. He can be our Gelato. An alternative to the typical drab flavored midfield ice cream of recent seasons.
And remember, this is no one scoop serving we have at Liverpool now. We’ve got two sweet and succulent scoops of stracciatella for our well-padded manager. They’re named Fabio Borini and Alberto Aquilani. Imagine the chemistry, the cheeky one-twos, the no-look passes that will give Martin Skrtel migraines from the confusion alone. This is an Italian combo that should make FIFA Ultimate Team managers so aroused their joysticks fall off.
But hold your fudge a sec. Picture this lineup. (4-3-3): Defense – GlenJo, Dagger, Skittles, Enrique Iglesias (natch). Midfield – Lucas (holding), Gerrard & Aquilani. Forwards – Borini (RW), Suarez (CF), aaand we’ll say Downing on the left but hopefully we nab someone splendid like that Clint Dempsey thug. Does that look like some tiki-taka funkiness or what? ‘Yea but on paper, everything looks gr…’ – I know buddy. But a boy can dream.
Assuming Lucas won’t be fully fit for a few months or so, I’d expect to see Gerrard (or Spearing, ugh) in that holding role while Aqua & Adam/Henderson/Shelvey/Joe Cole/Brendan Rodgers 2nd signing romp around the midfield.
Anyway, I’ll save the geeky tiki-taka tactic talk for this guy to explain brilliantly. Still, if I know Brendan Rodgers like I think I do (and I’ve never met him once), the prospect of having Alberto Aquilani as a playmaker in his squad is making him salivate. Aqua’s passing, vision, and flair are exactly what Liverpool so desperately need. Imagine if we had this* in our side every week:
Of course, I’ve probably just jinxed everything. Aqua will suck in preseason, or the ‘perma-knacked ankle’ will strike again, or he’ll soon get sick of the Liverpool’s inability to make pasta ‘al dente.’ But let’s hope not. Let’s hope Aquilani shows us why he was brought to Anfield in the first place. Let’s hope he proves Rafa right, and Roy and Kenny wrong.
And he damn well better. Otherwise, that awesome Gelato metaphor will be completely useless.
*We mean the passing ability of Aqua but having Dr. Dre blast over the PA system at Anfield between renditions of YNWA and The Fields of Anfield Road would be pretty cool too.
Follow Pete Karl on Twitter @theThirdkit
- Join LFC Boston’s Official Post-Game Party on July 25th (lfcboston.wordpress.com)