Suarezgate is over! Racism has been solved in Engand! Rejoice, peasants! Though all snark aside, it's genuinely refreshing to be able to pass along a collection of the day's news and notes without having any of the items relate to the story that's seemed the sole focus of Liverpool discussion for nigh on four months now…
* It's hardly a shock, given that even in the midst of a season where he has rarely found his way onto the injury list he's barely seen a minute of action, but it's being reported that Fabio Aurelio will not receive a new deal before the end of the season and that the player himself expects to return to South America for the twilight of his career. The 32-year-old Brazilian has always been a curious—and frustrating—case at left back, seemingly talented enough to start for nearly any side in world football were it not for the unending injury concerns that have for years inspired jokes and eye-rolls even as fans have wished he hadn't somehow been constructed of papier-mache and salt water taffy.
Especially given Liverpool's woes at the position, an eternal question mark for over twenty years after the aging Alan Kennedy was eased out of the starting eleven, that there's an argument to be made for Aurelio being the club's most talented left back in at least the Premier League era makes his fragility all the more frustrating. Though of course, any frustration the fans feel likely pales in comparison to that felt by the player himself, and at least for the club they appear to have now found in Jose Enrique a man capable of holding down the role for years to come.
Hopefully, wherever he ends up next season, Aurelio will manage to stay fit long enough to end his career on the pitch instead of the trainer's table. And no matter what the future holds for Liverpool at the left back position, we'll always have a soft spot for the classy Brazilian who in a rare moment of fitness scored one of the club's most satisfying goals of the past ten years.
* After being knocked out of the NextGen Series by Tottenham at White Hart Lane only to find themselves reinstated when Spurs self-reported an ineligible player, Liverpool are now set to host Ajax in a one-legged semi-final at Anfield. Rather bizarrely, then, Liverpool have gone from dropping out as the lower seeded away side in the quarter-finals to hosting the semi-finals as the higher seeded club, though if they can't figure out how to hit the back of the next between now and kickoff on March 14th, then being gifted a second chance will hardly have mattered.
As for their opponents, Ajax made it to the final four by defeating Barcelona by three goals in one of the best performances of the entire tournament as the two sides—who along with Sporting Lisbon likely comprise the very best of the European academies—faced off. Which means that after stumbling through the tournament on luck as much as anything so far—despite some very strong performances everywhere but in front of goal—it will be no simple task to dispatch Ajax for a chance to face Inter Milan or Marseille in the finals.
* And finally today, another bit of news on a player many expect won't be at Liverpool past the summer, as the increasingly out of favour Maxi Rodriquez has been called up for the Argentinean national team's friendly against Switzerland on February 29. It's a bit of a tight fit as far as the fixtures go, with Liverpool facing Cardiff at Wembley three days before and hosting Arsenal three days later, but given how little he's played this season as Kenny Dalglish focuses on getting £20M signing Stewart Downing firing on the left, it's hard to begrudge Maxi's return to international action for the first time since the World Cup.
That just about does it for the time being, though as always we'll be back with any breaking news. But in the meantime, while you wonder just what you have to do to get on the pitch…