Aquilani and other greats who struggled in the PremBy: Rob | August 20th, 2010
So Roy Hodgson has suggested that Alberto Aquilani is to head back to Italy on loan for a season, just a year after signing for Liverpool for £20m. Its a pretty disappointing step in a pretty disappointing story. I’m not particuarly monogomous with the Premier League, and often cheat on it with Serie A (and other leagues, but I don’t want to put too many in an analogy that already makes me look like a bored housewife) and I was a fan of Aquilani from his time at Roma. Sure he got injured a fair bit, but his talent was obvious.
He’s not really been given a shot at Liverpool. Injuries again have plagued his stay in the North West, but there was a weird sense that Rafa Benitez didn’t really like him anyway (which obviously begs a question – why sign him?).
Its been true of a fair few great players, who have done it for fun in other leagues, but come over here and are disappointing. I don’t think its because the Premier League is vastly superior to other leagues Europe, there are usually some other explainations.
Take, say, Andrei Shevchenko. At Milan he was absurdly good, scoring roughly every 14 seconds, and looking every inch the best striker in the World. He even dragged the Ukraine to a couple of big tournaments (or was that Sergi Rebrov, his strike partner, who was also fêted, but didn’t work out at Spurs). But when he signed for Chelsea (for £30m) it sadly never worked out.
He never stopped trying at Chelsea, and always handled things in a pretty classy way (perhaps why he not fit in?) but it always seemed that Jose Mourinho never really wanted him, and he was Abramovich’s signing, coupled with just a genuine getting older meant that he never did it in London. He headed back for a lacklustre stay in Milan before heading back home to the Ulkraine.
It isn’t always a case of a player getting older, or not being fancied by his manager though. Take Diego Forlán. Now he’s one of the World’s best strikers (and in fact, World Cup Golden Ball winner) having one the European Golden Boot twice. But he’s still mainly remembered in this country for his spell at Man United where he didn’t seem to cut the mustard.
He was signed in January 2002, and while now we’ve come to accept that players that sign in January need a while to settle in (c.f Evra and Vidic at Man United alone), there were different times, and Forlan’s eight month goalless streak resulted in much derision in the press. He had a pretty good second season, scoring goals against Liverpool and Chelsea for example, but his reputation was set – and he finished his time at United with much to prove. Which he has more than done since.
It’d be impossible to do this article without mentioning Juan Sebastián Verón so I’ll do that now. Verón of course was amazing in Serie A, where having been signed by Sven Goran Eriksson at Parma, he moved to Parma and won the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup. Then he moved to Lazio (under Sven again) where they won the Scudetto, and the Coppa Italia.
And so he moved to the Premier League, in a £28m move to Man United (the biggest British transfer of all time at the time). It wasn’t a success. Partly because his very presence was breaking up the classic Giggs-Keane-Scholes-Beckham midfield (if there was one area Man United really didn’t need to spend £28m that season…) but partly because the high tempo he struggled with.
He looked good when United played in the Champions League, but that was never going to be enough to convince anyone (except Alex Ferguson who called the press “fucking idiots” for not believing he was a great player) incredulously, Chelsea signed him, shortly after Red Rom started chucking money at them. He made just 14 appearances for Chelsea before leaving England and being quite good again.
Its not just the big clubs (although I could fill this article out with players like Kleberson) either. Stéphane Guivarc’h won a World Cup, and then signed for Newcastle. Where he was rubbish. He’d had a great record in his native France (save for a spell at Auxerre) and was the loan frontman at the 1998 World Cup. Although he didn’t actually score. He suffered at Newcastle due to the merry go round of managers they suffered at the time. He played only 4 games before Ruud Gullit decided he was Kenny Dalglish’s man and sold him. Politics cost Guivarc’h arguably. Though he did call The Daily Mail, crap. So he gets a thumbs up from me.
And so we finish this ramble, with Tomas Brolin. He scored a wonderful goal, and played Brilliantly back in 1992 to knock England out of the now long forgotten (In England) European Championships. Three years later he was signed by Leeds United. He seemed like a completely different players. Out of shape, he looked pretty poor and proceeded to fall out with absolutely everyone at the club. He scored just four times in his spell at Leeds before being shipped out to Crystal Palace. Where he failed to score.
You can follow this stream of conciousness on Twitter – its @EPLOffside – should I change my Twitter name? Should I worry about how many likes I get from Facebook? I don’t know, all I know is that I do.