Alberto Aquilani made his 25th appearance of the season for AC Milan on the weekend, coming on as an 85th minute substitute against Roma. Based on statements from the player's agent, this means that the automatic transfer clause in his loan deal has now been triggered—Milan get the midfielder, and Liverpool get around £5M spread over three annual instalments beginning this summer. However, with no news confirming the development as yet released by either AC Milan or Liverpool, sourceless rumours have begun to emerge suggesting that substitute appearances only count for a half a game based on the agreement between the two clubs.
If this is indeed the case, then Aquilani's 25 appearances across all competitions for Milan this season are in fact worth only 22 "appearances" to date. This would give Aquilani nine league games and at least two further Champions League matches to reach the magic number 25 through some combination of starts and substitute appearances. This in turn means that if the clause hasn't in fact been triggered already, it's rather likely to happen quite soon. At least short of Milan deciding they really don't want Aquilani even at his current valuation of 0.65 Charlie Adams or 0.25 Stewart Downings. Or, alternately, the clause may have already been triggered but with neither club having yet seen fit to release a statement on the matter.
On the upside, if the clause actually hasn't yet been triggered it would mean that Liverpool hasn't just sold for £5M a player they bought for £18M two and a half years ago. On the downside, he either clearly doesn't want to play for Liverpool or Liverpool clearly don't want him playing for them. Which means that if it hasn't triggered yet and Milan were to find a way to leave him sitting on 24.5 "appearances" by season's end rather than paying £5M to bring him home to Italy permanently after a generally positive season, Liverpool's next step would have to be loaning him to Sampdoria with an option to buy for £37k, a bottle of olive oil, and a box of wine.
Assuming that whether it's happened or not yet Aquilani officially becoming a Milan player is only a matter of time at this point, the roughly £12M plus wages lost on his various deals will represent an almost complete waste of the Xabi Alonso money that funded his original aquisition. When Alonso was sold, Liverpool's owners promised Rafa Benitez that he could reinvest all of the money in replacement players, with Benitez subsequently lining up deals for Aquilani and Fiorentina's Stevan Jovetic only to be denied funding for the Yugoslavian attacker following his acquisition of the Italian midfielder. In the end, then, it appears the sum return on Alonso will be an extra two million or so Euros arriving in the club's coffers each of the next three summers.
Meanwhile, for that £12M expenditure Liverpool received 18 league appearances, three domestic cup appearances, and three European cup appearances by the player. He scored one goal and recorded six assists in all competitions. He will be remembered in part either for being shoved out of the club by Christian Purslow or for wanting to go home to Italy because he didn't like the climate in Liverpool. He will also be remembered for being shoved out of Liverpool a second time by Damien Comolli after the two were spotted arguing in a hotel lobby with reports surfacing that Liverpool's director of football told him he was surplus to requirements as he played in "Gerrard's position." Or he might also be remembered for demanding to leave the club a second time after he and Damien Comolli were spotted arguing in a hotel lobby with reports surfacing that Aquilani had demanded to leave because he didn't like the food in Liverpool.
On the pitch, if he's remembered at all it's likely to be for his involvement in Liverpool's best attacking move of the 2009-10 season. Mostly, though, fans will remember him while wondering what could have been had things had worked out for the best with Alberto Aquilani and Liverpool instead of repeatedly working out for the most frustratingly worst. Unless his time with the club isn't actually over because the clause hasn't triggered and Milan go out of their way not to play him for the rest of the season, that is, in which case we look forward to the Aquilani saga dragging on for the next five or six years. Because that would be loads of fun for absolutely everyone.