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Alberto Aquilani's Future Grows Less Certain

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Aquilani in the snow

All of a sudden there is talk that Juventus may struggle to pay the £13.5 fee* for Alberto Aquilani agreed by Christian Purslow should the Italian club wish to purchase him before the loan agreement expires on July 1st. Some are even whispering that they might struggle to afford the 60-70k a week he's reportedly on moving forward, even if they can come up with the required transfer fee. So we are left to wonder what this thin speculation might actually mean for Liverpool--aside from being an excuse to talk about Alberto Aquilani once more, of course.

As one of the biggest clubs in Italy, it's hard not to look askance at such suggestions, but the idea that Aquilani may not end up at Juventus after this season is one that has grown over the past few days. Whether it's anything more than drummed up baseless rumours and an attempt to fill the time between transfer windows by the sorts of websites and newspapers that are really only happy when there's a transfer window open and manure to be mixed around is another question entirely. Still, the idea that Juventus either can't or won't pay the previously agreed fee before the loan wraps up and Aquilani's rights fully return to Liverpool after a time spent out of their control has grown over the past days to become quite nearly accepted fact.

However, even if Juventus let his loan end without coughing up for the already ridiculously generous cut-rate fee offered by Liverpool's former managing director, there would still be legitimate reason to question whether Aquilani would end up back at Liverpool. One has to remember that his sole experience with English football was a largely injury filled 2009-2010 season spent on the bench while Rafa Benitez fought for control in the boardroom and the club slipped to seventh, before a tumultuous summer that saw Chrisitian Purslow wrangle control, bring in Roy Hodgson, and ship the player back to Italy with the clear implication that he was surplus to requirements--to the extent that Liverpool would happily pay to get him fit and then take a four million-odd pound hit just to be rid of him.

Fans and supporters can dream of Aquilani coming back and reestablishing a spot in the first team under Dalglish, but this isn't a player who has any kind of real connection or loyalty for the club--and really, given the circumstances, it would be unreasonable to expect him to be loudly angling for a return to Merseyside. He has said before that he would prefer to stay in Italy, and all things considered it's hard to cry Judas or think he's doing some great wrong to Liverpool Football Club when he does so. While it would certainly be great for the squad to get a player of his talents back, fully fit and with a year of football having worked him back to form, and while it's easy to imagine him fitting in well with Dalglish and Clarke in charge while the new owners look to get the club back on top quickly, it's hard to imagine that emotionally he has greater affection for the club than he would for any other major English side. Perhaps there are some positives, of course, some familiarities and some sense of wanting to finally get the move he made to England almost two years ago right, but it's just as likely in the circumstances that those positives are balanced by negatives brought on by the situation he entered, left, and spent his time at the club in.

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Perhaps in the end, though, these latest whispers are only hopeful posturing by Juventus to try to get a few pounds knocked off because they know that's where he wants to be; perhaps it's their way of telling Aquilani he'll have to take a pay cut if he wants to stay longer term. Or perhaps the season will end and it will turn out they really cannot afford him, though in that case the most likely result might still be that he will end up sold to some other Italian club that can.

There may be a sliver of hope for Liverpool fans to hold on to that he'll come back--and come good on those tantalizing moments of promise shown towards the end of his one season with the club--but to think that it's any more than a hint of a hope is to leave oneself open to disappointment. Certainly it was unfortunate that he wasn't capable of making an impact early on due to his injuries, but that he is still almost certain to end up one of the worst transfer dealings the club has ever made remains down to the decision to sell him while slapping on a cut rate sale price. Though at least with FSG in place one can hope to see the squad improved if he does move on in the end, rather than seeing the bulk of any fee funneled into debt payments as happened when Rafa Benitez wasn't allowed to re-invest the entire Alonso fee in the first place.

However, if things with Juventus do fall through and Liverpool are determined to have him back, there's nothing in his time with the club to suggest he wouldn't do his all on the pitch and couldn't be won over by a role to play and an improved situation on all fronts. Right now it's simply that he's playing good football, is a regular starter, and is back home after a year spent rehabilitating in England before being unceremoniously shoved out the door. Understandably preferring to stay in Italy, as most likely would in his situation, is markedly different from assuming he would throw his toys out of the pram if he found himself in Liverpool when the pre-season rolled around.

Certainly, at the very least, there's nothing in the situation to suggest that Liverpool's new, competent owners have any reason to let Juventus get away with paying a fee of anywhere from £5-11M as some of the less reputable corners of the internet (and The Daily Mail) are "reporting." Which itself is at least a nice change from the days when one had to worry that the least sensible, most hare-brained rumours might somehow find their way to becoming terrifyingly true.

Still, unfortunately, regardless of finer details and the speculations of reprehensible websites, and even if it today appears that Alberto Aquilani's future is less certain than it was before, the odds remain against the new owners and the returned Dalglish having him at their disposal come next season. Then again, a few days ago things appeared so certain it was no longer worth discussing the situation, so one never does know what the future will bring.

*The reported La Gazzetta dello Sport numbers are conspicuously lower than all previous reports of the deal agreed should Juventus wish to purchase Aquilani by the time his loan expires, so either all the previous reports are wrong, Sport took an already converted fee in Euros and listed it as their pounds price**, or they are reporting the numbers Juventus is willing to pay.

**And then it looks like This is Anfield goes and uses Sport's Euro fee and slaps a pounds sign on it themselves when they talk about it, dropping the fee another couple of million. Repeat that process a dozen more times and you get G*al.com reporting a five million Euro fee with a straight face. Fun times.