This article forms part of our Total Duds feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at a player who disappointed after being signed, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to illustrate how ill-judged the transfer decision has been.
When Naby Keita limped out of Liverpool’s Carabao Cup game against Arsenal recently, as per the Daily Mail, it was not exactly a bolt from the blue.
The Guinea midfielder, who cost the Reds £52.75m in summer 2018 (as per Sky Sports), had already missed several weeks of the season with a torn muscle bundle and had multiple injury problems towards the latter stages of 2018/19.
Keita’s continued fitness concerns, in addition to an underwhelming return of three goals considering his hefty transfer fee, evoke memories of another expensive, injury-plagued midfielder from Liverpool’s past.
As noted by The Mirror, the Italian came to Anfield amid some high-profile endorsements. John Arne Riise said he was more dangerous than Alonso in terms of his attacking play, while Francesco Totti described him as “potentially one of the best players in the world”.
There was only one problem with Aquilani when he pitched up at Merseyside in August 2009 – he was carrying an ankle injury, one that would delay his Liverpool debut for nearly three months until he came on in a League Cup defeat at Arsenal.
His first start for the Reds didn’t arrive until December, by which stage they were already out of the Champions League before losing at home to Fiorentina that night. [via BBC]
Despite making scant impact in his first half-season at Liverpool, many Reds fans stuck by Aquilani, who was granted a standing ovation at Anfield upon being substituted in the defeat to Fiorentina, as per The Telegraph.
There were signs during the second half of the season that the Italian was beginning to find his feet, with his first goal coming in an impressive display against Portsmouth and a trio of assists in a 4-0 win at Burnley.
The following summer, Rafael Benitez was replaced as Liverpool’s manager by Roy Hodgson, who would see Aquilani being forced off with a knee injury in the Reds’ first pre-season friendly in Switzerland, as per The Mirror.
Hodgson was not prepared to wait on the Italian to recover, instead commissioning a loan move to Juventus for the 2010/11 season after publicly admitting that he could not guarantee the midfielder regular action at Anfield. [via BBC]
Aquilani had another loan spell the following year at AC Milan before, in August 2012, Liverpool sold him permanently to Fiorentina, with the player complaining to Goal.com that he felt unwanted at Anfield and that the Reds delayed his departure by demanding an excessive valuation for him.
Three years after he came to the club with an ankle injury, Liverpool were finally shot of the injury-prone Aquilani, whose return of two goals in 28 appearances was paltry recompense on the £17m originally invested in him.
His naming as the biggest Liverpool transfer flop of the last decade by Rousing The Kop and inclusion among a Goal.com list of the club’s 15 worst-ever signings sums up the haplessness of the Italian midfielder’s time at Anfield.
Liverpool fans, what were your thoughts when the club signed Aquilani? Were you surprised that things didn’t work out for him at Anfield? Join in the discussion by commenting below!Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!