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Alberto Aquilani’s chances of succeeding at Liverpool FC appear to be on the wane

HE arrived in a blaze of publicity, trumpeted as the man whose imaginative passing and subtle link up play would capture the hearts and minds of Liverpool fans. 

Even before his debut, a banner in the corner of The Kop had been hoisted up depicting the new hero as a gladiator and every supporter wanted Il Principino – the Little Prince – to become a success in a Red shirt.

The chances of Alberto Aquilani ever living up to his star billing now, though, look highly unlikely after Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson revealed after Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Trabzonspor that he is free to move away on loan.

Given that many of his colleagues spent the summer at the World Cup finals, Aquilani had a glorious chance to show Hodgson he was capable of forcing his way into his plans to become an integral part of Liverpool’s squad.

Everything we heard after he returned to training was positive; Peter Brukner, the club’s Head of Sports Science and Sports Medicine, revealed they had got to the root of his fitness problems and rectified them.

Meanwhile, Hodgson enthused about Aquilani’s attitude during the early stages of the European tour and on the training pitches in Bad Ragaz, he swept the ball from A to B with the grace and panache you would expect from a player who cost £17m.

“There has never been any question about Alberto’s talents,” Hodgson insisted. “He is a gifted footballer.

“What has been the major disappointment for him is that he arrived here with an injury that took an awfully long time to clear up.

“It was only really towards the end of the season when he started to show anything like the kind of form you would have expected and that will have frustrated him.

“He has got to use this pre-season to put all those disappointments behind him.”

It all looked so encouraging. But then four minutes into Liverpool’s first friendly of the summer, on a balmy night in the Swiss tax haven of Zug, an incident took place which set alarm bells ringing once more.

Picking up possession just near the touchline, Aquilani looked to pick out a pass but was knocked on to the seat of his pants by a robust challenge; admittedly it was a tackle you would not expect to see so soon in such a game but there it was.

The test now was to see whether Aquilani could dust himself off and get on with the game or, as was the case last season, retreat into his shell; unfortunately, the latter was true and he was eventually substituted, complaining about a knee problem.

His tour ended there and Aquilani returned the day after to Melwood for tests; though it proved to be nothing serious, you began to wonder whether this was a sign of things to come; another absence against Arsenal last week merely intensified concerns.

So, two questions – what happens now and how has it come to this? All things being equal, Aquilani will find a club in Italy before the transfer window closes, possibly Juventus, possibly Roma or maybe Fiorentina, to start playing regularly again.

Hodgson has given the impression that he does not want to consider a permanent deal but the suspicion remains that if Liverpool could get something substantial back on their initial investment, a deal would be done. Think back through the years of the Premier League and other than Gianluca Vialli and Gianfranco Zola, few – if any – Italians have shown they can cope with the hustle and bustle of the English game.

Aquilani is clearly a talented footballer, one who will be seen to great effect in the more sedate surrounds of Serie A but it is impossible to argue that he ever appreciated the differences between Liverpool and Rome.

While Liverpool’s local heroes have scraped and battled for everything in their career and more is demanded of them, in Italy, the local heroes are always given the benefit of the doubt and are allowed to coast through life.

To flourish in Red, the 26-year-old needed steel to go with his skill; if he can find that blend during his impending loan, all well and good. If he doesn’t, Aquilani will forever be remembered as the man who could not live up to the hype.

Copyright - Liverpool Echo

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