Time for Liverpool’s ‘Little Prince’ to take his bow

The recent influx of new faces at Liverpool this summer has simultaneously served to reignite optimism amongst the club’s fans and place doubts over the futures of several members of the playing personnel.

Among the players rumoured to have the Anfield axe hanging above his head is forgotten man Alberto Aquilani. Aquilani, a marquee signing two summers ago, has returned to Merseyside after Juventus failed to stump up the fee needed to turn his loan deal into a permanent one.

The player’s agent Franco Zavaglia has dampened speculation that his client will be the next player to follow Paul Konchesky out of the club. Speaking to milannews.it, he said: “The possibility of seeing Alberto back in the Italian championship is very small at the moment. At the moment I believe Aquilani will be wearing the Liverpool shirt next season.”

The former Roma man featured in both of Liverpool’s pre-season friendlies last week, and turned in a particularly noteworthy performance in the second half of the side’s 6-3 win over a Malaysian All-Star XI on Saturday. Indeed his display was deemed to be so impressive that it prompted a complimentary tweet from club owner John W. Henry, who said: “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.”

Whilst pre-season friendlies against vastly inferior opposition are seldom the barometer of a team or player’s quality, Aquilani’s contributions sought to reassure the club’s management of his undoubted ability and class. Many, including the player himself, will be hoping that these recent performances and Henry’s ringing endorsement will prove to be catalysts for a revival in his Anfield fortunes.

A successful transition to life in the Premier League is an accomplishment that has eluded some of the continent’s most distinguished footballers. The high-profile examples of Andriy Shevchenko and Juan Sebastián Verón illustrate how hard adapting to English football can be. Aquilani’s initial introduction to the Premier League was made even harder by several aggravating factors.

The midfielder arrived at Anfield carrying an injury, and may have forced his recovery in order to hasten his return to first-team action. Aquilani’s return from injury also coincided with a dismal run for the Reds, which included an ignominious early Champions League exit. Most tellingly, many erroneously saw Aquilani as a direct replacement for the much-loved and much-missed Xabi Alonso, despite earlier suggestions by then manager Rafa Benitez that the two were very different players.

Speaking after the Italian’s arrival, Benitez said: “Alberto is a player who has quality, game intelligence and can pass the ball quickly. He can play more offensive than Alonso did in the final third, and he has more accuracy in his final pass.”

After enjoying a sustained run in the team towards the end of 2009/10, Aquilani actually ended the season with the best assists per minute rate of any player plying their trade in Europe’s top five leagues, vindicating Benitez’s earlier assertion.

Since replacing Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish has emphatically demonstrated his mastery of man-management and motivation. Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel were two notable beneficiaries of the Scot’s return, whilst youngsters John Flanagan and Jay Spearing can also attribute their first-team ascensions and subsequent success to the faith of Dalglish. Should he stay, Alberto Aquilani could be the next player to reap the rewards of a little bit of King Kenny confidence.

Do you see an Anfield future for Alberto Aquilani? Let me know below or on twitter at www.twitter.com/zarifrasul