The story of Alberto Aquilani’s time at Liverpool could be written into an Italian opera. Il Principino (The Little Prince), comes to Merseyside to “save” a club that is sinking thanks to their arrogant owners and just as arrogant manager. Despite coming off of ankle surgery great things are expected of the Italian, who is replacing fan favorite Xabi Alonso, in fact too much is expected. Act II begins with the player enduring a fitness come back working his way through the reserves until he receives the nod from the gaffer to be included in the starting eleven.
Act III, The Little Prince is adored by the Kop as songs are sung and standing ovations are given in praise of the number four. But as the act wears on the true villain of the opera makes one final attempt to off-set our hero. A training regime that would come under heavy scrutiny during his time with Inter Milan and an uncanny ability to ignore and freeze out his players, turns our hero from a Little Prince into a Man of Glass. A player so quickly loathed by a too quick to judge media and fan-base sees Aquilani thrown on the rubbish pile.
After only 18 appearances and months of fighting fitness problems, at least that’s what his manager would continue to say, Liverpool’s Italian love affair would come to an end. How could fans, media and fortune tellers not see this coming? The only other Italian to play for Liverpool was Andrea Dossena. Who, like Aquilani, would only make 18 appearances for the club; and like Aquilani, too much was asked of and promised before a pair of boots was ever laced up. Dossena has now shrugged off his two year Anfield Hell with a soaring Napoli side where he played 43 times last season for a team that will play Champions League football this term, unlike like Liverpool.
Last season we saw glimpses of the man that Liverpool thought they had signed. A season-long loan back to the mother country with the Old Lady of Italian football brought out fantastic flashes in the Little Prince. He and Fabio Quagliarella had Juve flying high in the first half of the season. Felipe Melo’s form returned to that of his Fiorentina days, while new-comer Milos Krasic’s play down the right side had many pundits declaring Juve had returned.
But it was a false hope and after Christmas Juve’s form crashed: Quagliarella’s season ended due to injury, Melo began to play like Felipe Melo and Krasic tailed off after his explosive start. With all the pieces around him falling to the wayside Aquilani could not prevent Juventus’s dismal finish.
Like last summer, this summer is another of uncertainty for Aquilani. Liverpool and Juventus could not come up with an agreed price for the midfielder, and since then they have signed Andrea Pirlo. This week Juve look likely to sign the man that did what many thought Aquilani would do at Liverpool, Raul Meireles, which would be good business for the Bianconeri and terrible business for the Reds.
There are plenty of clubs who want Aquilani’s passing skill in their midfield, but unfortunately Liverpool will not part with the Little Prince cheaply. The biggest disservice Aquilani may have done for himself was playing well for Juventus. This has given Liverpool hope in regaining more of the £20 million they spent to sign him. So far clubs have baulked at the asking price for an often injured footballer, and Liverpool seem happy at the moment to let many spare parts sit around their Melwood training ground rather than sell at a cut rate price.
Aquilani has the skill and experience to make a midfield better as he did in Turin, but the questions regarding his fitness will surround him from now on, though he made 33 appearances last season. Perhaps, Aquilani will go down as a bright player whose career sputtered out due to a body that wasn’t made for professional football. Or perhaps, he will gain vindication by leading a squad to glory in the coming years. Either way it will be a fascinating ending to the Opera of The Little Prince.
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