What a waste.
That's all I can think of at the news that Alberto Aquilani's at best star-crossed and at worse completely wasted Liverpool career came to an end today as he signed with FIorentina. Liverpool still have to pay part of his wages, such is their expanse, and one of the reasons he had to be shipped off. But then, do I really know it was a waste? Do I have any idea what Aquilani could have given Liverpool, based on the meager chances he got? I think I do, but I can't say for sure.What we can say, or at least argue, is that yet another player fell victim to Rafa Benitez's descent into madness. It landed Robbie Keane in MLS, arguably as well. Aquilani was bought with the money made from the sale of Xabi Alonso (which helped signal the club's fall into mediocrity). I don't think any of us expected Aqua to replace Xabi, a different sort of player who liked to get farther forward than the former Sociedad man did. And we knew he was fragile. But we'd seen him at Roma, and some of those Roma teams were wonderfully entertaining. And Aquilani had a lot to do with that. He had touch, vision, and an eye for goal. Mostly, and you saw this in brief glimpses with Liverpool, he had class. He just had an air about him, the game seemed to slow around him when he had the ball.
He showed up hurt, not making his debut until a sub appearance in the League Cup against Arsenal late in October. He showed some flashed then. And then that was basically it. Rafa refused to play him, even though he was fully fit. He babbled on about fitting in or adjustment period, but it was all bullshit. It seemed another fight picked with the owners and chairman with Aquilani as collateral damage. "Hey, I bought this guy with your money but I'm not going to use him because I don't like you." All the supporters got was one big goal in the Uefa Cup at Anfield, in a tie that would see Liverpool go out anyway to Atletico Madrid.
Had Rafa allowed Aquilani to make an impact that season, maybe Roy Hodgson wouldn't have been so quick to ship him out. Maybe his wages would have always demanded that. Maybe the reports of being unhappy in England would have stopped that too. Doubt we'll ever have a true answer. So off to Juve he went, where he was very good, but a permanent deal couldn't be worked out.
Last season began, and a lot of us hoped the more keen eye for class and talent that Kenny Dalglish had and Hodgson didn't would see Aqua stay. He was clearly the best player in preseason. But either Comolli didn't want him, or Aqua didn't want to stay, or both. And after sounding all the right notes, Dalglish was a bystander as he went to Milan.
He didn't quite fit in with the Italian champions, and it all started again this summer. He looked one of if not the best Liverpool player in Toronto and Boston. We thought his style would fit in perfectly with Brendan Rodgers. The manager himself sounded as if he wanted him to stay. But that could have been lip service. Or Aquilani never wanted to be at Liverpool after all they'd put him through.
Whatever the story was, Liverpool missed out on three seasons of what was once, and probably still is, a truly class player who could have helped. And Aquilani has had three years of his prime pretty much taken from him, or at least thrown in a blender. He's now 28, and might only have a few years left. And Liverpool's midfield still has Charlie Adam.
That totally adds up.