Not many foreign players stick around once the going gets tough, and neither did Alberto Aquilani – but the fact he is still a Liverpool player means there could be more to the Italian than sloppy passing and a poor physical presence in midfield.
Rafael Benítez signed Aquilani from Roma in 2009, and for £20m, you would have expected more than what the Italian produced in his first season at Liverpool, and he was sent away on loan to Juventus and then AC Milan to rediscover the form he produced for Roma.
On Thursday, the midfielder insisted it was not his choice, and as if to prove that where he wanted to be playing was in the Premier League, he expertly sidestepped winning the Serie A crown in successive seasons, playing for Juventus when AC Milan won the league title, and moving to the San Siro when Juve took the title back in May.
Aged 28, he is back for another crack at the English top flight, which is admirable and rare, and Brendan Rodgers must give the Italy international a chance because the size of his transfer fee suggests Aquilani must have some redeeming features.
“How can you pay £20m for a player and this player is never taken into consideration,” Aquilani told BBC Sport.
“I never asked to leave but I was always pushed by the club.”
Learning how best to fit Aquilani into life on Merseyside could be Rodgers’ smartest move.
It has not taken long for Shinji Kagawa to show why Manchester United spent £17m to acquire his services from Borussia Dortmund.
The Japanese midfielder scored the winner for the Red Devils as he produced a stand-out performance against Shanghai Shenhua in a narrow 1-0 win.
The 23-year-old has already impressed during the South African leg of United’s pre-season tour with glimpses of class in their 1-1 draw with Ajax CT.
His performances and quick integration into the team have also earned him praise from Rio Ferdinand and Sir Alex Ferguson, who is particularly impressed with his work-rate.
Kagawa’s early form is good news for Ferguson, who will need the midfielder to play a big part in the new season if he is unable to prise Lucas Moura from Sao Paulo.
While Ferguson is not panicking, he clearly feels that United’s midfield needs some work, especially as Paul Scholes cannot play on forever.
But if Kagawa can shine in the Premier League – and the early indication is that he will – then Ferguson will hope his midfield headache from recent seasons will be cured.
After being influential in helping Dortmund win the Bundesliga title last season, Ferguson will feel confident that Kagawa can be just as effective in delivering United another Premier League title.
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