Alberto Aquilani: Liverpool Exile Becoming Turin Conductor

Posted on 01/11/2010

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The experiment failed & is now behind him. Alberto Aquilani became the first Italian to move to the English Premier League during the peak of his career, a €24 million transfer in August last year that was ill advised to say the least. The club had so many problems that spending such a large portion of their transfer budget on a player that never suited Rafael Benitez or indeed the league’s pace was always doomed to failure.
In one of his best moves of the summer – high praise given some of the transfer coups he achieved – Beppe Marotta managed to not only secure the free season long loan of the midfielder, but to also agree an option to buy at just €16 million. In addition that fee will be payable over the following three years, a great piece of business by the Director General. (Although I can almost hear Kieron O’Connorscreaming that with amortisation Liverpool have turned a profit…)
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It took time for him to settle & make his debut, his first start only coming in the week five win over Cagliari, & he looked rusty but still slotted in well alongside another player who has been reborn this season, Felipe Melo. Since then Delneri has made the duo his first choice pairing in central midfield, excluding Claudio Marchisio who finds himself pushed out to the left flank.
Looking at the performances of Melo & Aquilani it is difficult to argue with the coach’s decsion. Aquilani himself has been in fantastic form, quickly becoming an essential ingredient in the Bianconeri resurgence of this season. After an inconsistent start to the season it is no coincidence that the team is unbeaten since the Roman forced his way into the first eleven.
Draws against Bologna & Inter as well as wins over Milan, Cagliari & Lecce since that full debut have followed. While his individual performances have been superb, it has been the way he influences those around him that makes his inclusion so important to Juventus. He is not a pure regista or “director”, playing a little higher up the field than Andrea Pirlo for example, but he is certainly organising & dictating the play.
A simple look at his passing in this run of games tells the story of this impact. He has completed 252 of 279 passes, a staggering 90.32%. The range of those passes is similarly excellent, often releasing the wide players with deep cross-field balls, adept at finding team-mates – primarily Milos Krasic – & prompting them into some wonderful attacking positions.
But it is more than just his passing, & his sumptuous goal against Lecce that makes him indispensable. Aquilani has, under Gigi Delneri, already become a much more rounded player, & his defensive effort also deserves special mention. The two matches at San Siro in particular showed this new side to his game, & the player himself is quick to acknowledge this;
“I am now more of a central midfielder. Before I was further forward in the offensive phase, but I have to have more balance and be careful also in defence. Delneri has changed me, I can now defend”
From his early appearances, when he tried to play like he did at Roma, pushed much further forward he disrupted the side, changing the shape to almost a 4-2-3-1 & forcing others to cover for him. This was clearly evident in the loss to Palermo, where he played 30 minutes & only touched the ball in his own half 4 times. That is in stark contrast to his displays since becoming a starter, highlighted in the heat-map below, taken from the Derby d’Italia.
This has really been a re-focusing of one of his greatest attributes – the ability to read a game – turning it to his advantage & intercepting numerous passes by Juve’s opponents, then quickly launching swift counter attacks. That is not to say he does not tackle either, quickly applying himself to become, as he said himself, more a complete midfielder than ever.
While Krasic has rightly taken the majority of the plaudits this season, the quiet unassuming efforts of the other il Principino should not go unnoticed too much longer. Liverpool must be cursing their luck in losing such a gifted player, as there is surely no way Juventus will not pick up their option to buy – in this form his permenant transfer is a mere formality.
It is not just in the heart of the Juventus midfield where Aquilani feels he belongs either, quickly adapting to life back in his homeland “I like the team, I like Turin. I have found a house. I am happy”. With performances like these Alberto, we all are.
Source: Il Tifosi
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