The good, the bad, and the really, they're still technically Liverpool players? Not to mention the I really wish they were still at Liverpool players. Plus Joe Cole. It's time to get up to speed on how Liverpool's loanees are doing as the club moves into the meat of the season…
Remember when everybody was cool with Alberto Aquilani leaving because he really didn't want to be at Liverpool and he was soft in the tackle and the club had Raul Meireles anyhow, who at least was already proven in the Premier League, and as long as the club kept one of them around they'd be deeper in midfield then they had been the year before so it'd be cool? Yeah, the summer transfer window was a blast. My liver would especially like to thank Twitter for taking ten years off its life.
In any case—and unlike Luka Modric, who once again looks Spurs' best player after being forced to stick around—Aquilani got the move he wanted with another loan that sees him back in Italy. In his first match for AC Milan he started the move that led to the club's first goal of the season before later registering an assist off a corner, and on the 18th of September he scored a header against Napoli for his first goal with his second Italian club in the three years he's been on Liverpool's books. Got that all straight? Me neither.
In any case, he's playing regularly, he's happy, the Milan fans love him, he's defensively responsible, and everything's just flowers and sunshine if you're Alberto Aquilani. Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard's continuing injury woes and Liverpool at times looking as though they could use a driving, creative spark in midfield for when Adam starts to wheeze on sixty minutes makes it hard to imagine Aquilani wouldn't have seen at least a little bit of action had he stuck around. And no, I'm not bitter. Why do you ask?
After rather confusingly being loaned out to Atletico Madrid for the season—with the Spanish side given a set option to buy the young attacker at the end of it—only for Atletico to then turn around and immediately loan Pacheco to Madrid minnows and La Liga new boys Rayo Vallecano, things haven't gotten a whole lot clearer when it comes to the player's future. To date he's made only seven appearances and registered six shots, all while coming off the bench, and by most accounts hasn't made much of an impact either for the club he's physically with at the moment or for the other club in Spain that has recall and purchase options on him should he at some point do something especially impressive with the club he's physically with right now.
If all of that's a touch confusing, then it's no more so than Pacheco's career trajectory, as the player has quickly gone from a lock to make it at Liverpool as the next big thing to a player who can't make it with a newly promoted La Liga side. Given that he had already integrated himself into Norwich by the end of last season while on loan with the then Championship side, one has to wonder if a better move for all involved wouldn't have been sending Pacheco back to the Canaries where he likely would have seen more action—and where it would have been Premier League action, no less.
We used to make fun of him for looking a bit like Napoleon, standing around winded with his hands on his hips and seeming five inches shorter than everyone else on the pitch, but now Joe Cole is eating baguettes, drinking espresso, and smoking Gauloises while becoming something of a fan favourite for Lille. Oh, and he's playing a lot as a driving, creative spark in midfield for the defending Ligue 1 champions. And he's still making over £90k per week, most of it coming from Liverpool, for doing so.
So it's probably safe to say that Joe Cole has come out the winner on this one, and he's even making sounds about being willing to take a pay cut to move to France long term at the end of the year. It might be tempting to see Cole actually being an effective football player and as a result think that Liverpool could use him again, but it's just as likely that his sudden blossoming into something that vaguely resembles the footballer he was always supposed to be is down to the slower pace of the French league, something Cole himself has acknowledged.
Like Aquilani, Cole registered an assist in his first game with his new club, beating four Saint-Etienne defenders in the process. Since then he's added two goals in league action and one in the French Coupe de la Ligue, and while he isn't yet anything like a lock to start week in and week out, he's at least getting playing time in almost every match one way or another and proving to be an increasingly valuable contributor for his new side.
At the end of September, Amoo joined Bury on a month long loan, scoring a goal in his second game—and first start—after coming off the bench the week before on his debut. In total he's made two starts to go along with a pair of substitute appearances, and on October 20 his loan deal was extended until January.
After extending his Liverpool contract, Hungarian U21 international goalkeeper Gulacsi joined Hull City on a season-long loan and started his first three games with the Tigers in August. However, when journeyman keeper Adriano Basso joined the club as a free agent, Gulacsi quickly found himself relegated to second string. He has since made a pair of cameos off the bench, and after appearing promising in the beginning, this loan intended to get a Liverpool prospect valuable playing time he never would have seen stuck behind Pepe Reina has come to seem far less beneficial for all involved.
Jonjo Shelvey is the new Charlie Adam. He might even be worth £10M for his corners alone. Or maybe just for his goals, seeing as he's scored five of them so far for Blackpool. In any case, the attacking midfielder has made an instant impact with the Championship club, stepping in to replace the departed Adam as the Seasiders' driving, creative spark in midfield. He may not have been able to replace Adam's range of passing for Ian Holloway's side, but he has added a late-arriving goal threat that has been of great benefit to the club.
In total, Shelvey has started six games, scored five goals and an assist, taken thirteen shots, and drawn six fouls. Though it's at a lower level than either Aquilani or Cole, it's safe to say that no Liverpool player out on loan has made anything like the impact Shelvey has for Blackpool—and no other player out on loan is as safe a bet to start the next match as he is.
There will always be doubts about Shelvey's ability to make it at the very highest levels due to his lack of pace, but in almost every other way he has bags of talent as an attacking midfielder, and at this stage in his career what he needs more than anything are games. Right now he's getting them, and the early results are extremely promising. Also, he scored a hattrick against Leeds on Tuesday. Which probably counts as part of that "promising" dealie.
Rochdale are currently stuck in the relegation zone in League One, and Nathan Eccleston has made three appearances for them since joining in October, scoring in his debut against Exeter. As with Amoo it's a one month loan, and though he's made an immediate impact it will be a week or two yet before we find out if it's going to be extended as Ammo's was. If it isn't and he's forced to search for another club looking to take him on loan then it's probably the fault of the Masons. Also, I'm pretty sure they're the ones stopping me from getting millions in grant money for my valuable, ongoing contributions to research on drunken napping. Bastards.
Also on loan with Rochdale is Stephen Darby, though in his case the defender joined in July and will be there until the end of the season no matter what. So far the right back has started every game for the club and is highly thought of by their fans and coaches, and given that it seems increasingly unlikely that the 23-year-old has any kind of future at Liverpool there's every chance that he could be there longer than just this season if they manage to stay up. If not, a move to another League One or mid-level Championship side seems the most likely future for Darby.
p.s.: Driving, creative spark in midfield.