In the summer of 2009 Rafa Benitez was tasked with drawing together a genius plan to topple Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
Only weeks prior had the Reds had been pipped to the title by Ferguson’s star-studded side, boasting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.
Liverpool had produced the club’s greatest points haul in a 38-game Premier League season (86), but an excessive amount of draws over the course of the nine-month slog ensured the Reds would enter a 20th season chasing an elusive Premier League title, as they fell four points short of United in the concluding weekend in May.
Liverpool would lose their midfield conductor, Xabi Alonso, as the club decided to look towards Alberto Aquilani of Roma, the fresh-faced Italian, to fill the void left by the departing Spaniard.
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And for many, the summer of 2009 felt like the beginning of the end, as Benitez’s summer signings failed to reinforce the progression made during the previous campaign with the Reds slumping to a seventh-place finish in the spring of 2010.
But twelve years on from Aquilani posing outside of Melwood after signing along the dotted lines, his Anfield career serves Liverpool with a timely transfer reminder that could be revisited to examine the case of Naby Keita over the coming season.
There are seemingly many parallels between the Liverpool midfielders past and present; with both having been brought to the club for hefty transfer fees.
Although £20m may, in the modern-day, appear to be the bog-standard fee for a player, it’s worth remembering £56m would have been the adequate amount of funds to gain the signature of Ballon D’or winner Kaka in his prime.
In addition, both midfielders were handed history-weighted shirt numbers on their arrival, with Keita being tasked with carrying on the legacy of Steven Gerrard’s No.8, whilst the Italian was handed the No.4 that became vacant following Sami Hyypia’s decision to end his ten-year career at Anfield.
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Although, due to circumstances out of his control, Aquilani was unable to ever get going at Anfield due to the timing of the injuries he suffered, encapsulated by his three-month wait to make his debut for Benitez’s side and a further five weeks to be handed his first start.
The completion of his first season in English football in May 2010, would all but mark his last, as Aquilani would spend the next two campaigns back in Italy with the Reds sanctioning a handful of loans to Juventus and AC Milan.
Before, rather embarrassingly, picking up less than 10% of the fee that had been shelled out three years prior when he was sold by newly-appointed Liverpool boss, Brendan Rodgers, in the summer of 2012.
And if there is anything to learn from the failings of the Italian, it is that Michael Edwards can’t afford to repeat the same mistake with Keita.
Similarly, to Liverpool’s former Italian, there has never been any doubt surrounding the ability of Keita. There was a reason Edwards and the club were willing to strike an unusual, but hefty, deal for the sought-after RB Leipzig midfielder in 2017, which required Jurgen Klopp to patiently wait 12 months for his arrival.
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But with his contract expiring in 2023, it seems like the upcoming season could be a make-or-break one for the 27-year old.
Consequently, if he, again, provides more questions than answers over his fitness and durability during the coming campaign, then Liverpool should be wise enough to search for a new option in the hope of recouping part of their £54m outlay from 2017.
The signs from the Reds’ pre-season summer camp indicate Keita could be propelling himself forward rather than repeating Aquilani’s fate.
His cameos against Mainz, VfB Stuttgart and Hertha Berlin hint this could be the year he begins to perform like the tenacious, silky and dynamic midfielder that Liverpool fans are itching to see on a regular basis.