A young star who had the world at his feet; Alberto Aquilani was viewed as one of the best players to come through the AS Roma academy. He went on to feature for the Giallorossi before injuries curtailed his involvement. English side, Liverpool FC, gambled upon Aquilani’s fitness when they signed him in August 2009. A disappointing season entailed and the Italian was loaned to Juventus.
Whilst playing for the Bianconeri, he displayed an ability to dictate a match’s tempo and control the midfield. He also proved critics wrong; he could remain fit for the majority of the season.
His form was such that Cesare Prandelli, recalled Aquilani to the national team. He played regularly during the Azzuri’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign; his performance away to Estonia, a particular highlight.
Last summer, constant speculation linked Juventus to a permanent move. Liverpool were keen to offload Aquilani and his agent attempted to force Juventus to close the deal. But Juventus declined to bid, instead opting for midfield maestro, Andrea Pirlo, who had just been released from AC Milan. Aquilani was now left in limbo and joined Liverpool for preseason training.
Whilst touring Eastern Asia, Aquilani put in several good performances, assisting and scoring regularly. Liverpool’s manager, Kenny Dalglish, was full of praise for the play-maker, but also made clear opportunities would be hard to come by for Aquilani this season. In other words, he should look elsewhere.
Meanwhile AC Milan’s summer transfer strategy revolved around searching for a mysterious “Mr X,” who could ignite their European ambitions. It was believed that “Mr X” fitted the profile of a left-sided midfielder, who could run box-to-box; or a much required trequartista. As the weeks passed and the media grew hysterical with speculating about “Mr X,” Milan appeared no closer to signing anyone.
Suddenly it was announced Alberto Aquilani would be making a return to the Peninsula once more; and this time it would be as AC Milan’s mysterious “Mr X.” It was a signing which took many by surprise; intrigue developed as to how Aquilani would fit into Milan’s midfield.
Competition for places at Milan was fierce. The club had just won its first Scudetto for several years and Aquilani would have to battle his way past the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Mark Van Bommel, Gennaro Gattuso and Antonio Nocerino, to claim a place in the team. Maximilliano Allegri was known for favouring a physical midfield capable of dominating opponents, winning the ball back quickly and relying upon Zlatan Ibrahimovic for creativity.
Aquilani’s signing flew in the face of Allegri’s philosophy though. Now Milan had a player capable of retaining possession, who could create attacking movements and is more mobile than his predecessor, Pirlo. Aquilani was in effect, the direct replacement for Pirlo.
The season began well for Aquilani, he featured often for a Milan side which initially stuttered in its opening fixtures. But the midfielder showed promise and appeared at ease supplying Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Cassano and Pato with ammunition. In eighteen league appearances, Aquilani has netted one goal and provided six assists.
But what does the future hold for Il Principino? His primary objective is to help Milan secure a first place finish in Serie A this season. With only 9 games of the season remaining and Milan enjoying a four point lead of rivals Juventus, it is likely Aquilani will be able to add the Scudetto to his CV. A second priority is to ensure Milan can overcome FC Barcelona, over two legs, in the Champion’s League quarter-finals. Aquilani will hope to add to the six appearances he’s already made in this year’s competition.
His third and final priority is to convince Max Allegri and co, that spending the €12-15million it would take to secure his signature, is a worthwhile investment. Thus far, he is able to argue a strong case and a good performance for the National side at Poland and Ukraine this June may just seal the deal. Expect Il Principino to once more feature at a Serie A ground near you in 2012/13.