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Aquilani with Liverpool in 2011
|Full name||Alberto Aquilani|
|Date of birth||7 July 1984|
|Place of birth||Rome, Italy|
|Height||1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|2003–2004||→ Triestina (loan)||41||(4)|
|2010–2011||→ Juventus (loan)||33||(2)|
|2011–2012||→ Milan (loan)||23||(1)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 13:57, 20 April 2016 (UTC).
Alberto Aquilani (Italian pronunciation: [alˈbɛrto akwiˈlaːni]; born 7 July 1984) is an Italian professional footballer who plays for Sporting CP and the Italian national team. Aquilani is a central midfielder who can operate as a playmaker or as an attacking midfielder, and even as a wing-back.
Aquilani began his career with Italian side Roma and, after a brief loan spell at Triestina, returned to the Serie A club where he became a regular in the Roma side during the 2005–06 season, earning the nickname "Il Principino" (The Little Prince), due to his resemblance to former Roma legend Giuseppe Giannini, both in terms of appearance and playing style, who was known as "Il Principe" (The Prince). During the following season, he suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out for several months. In 2007 and 2008 he won consecutive Coppa Italia titles with Roma, as well as the 2007 Supercoppa Italiana. He moved to English club Liverpool for the start of the 2009–10 season but in August 2010, having received only limited playing time at Anfield due to injury, he returned to Italy and joined Juventus on loan until the end of the 2010–11 season. Aquilani returned to Liverpool at the end of the season as Juventus did not take up their purchase option. He went on loan again in 2011, playing for Italian club Milan for the 2011–12 season, and was subsequently sold to Fiorentina in 2012, where he remained until his transfer to Portuguese club Sporting in 2015.
Internationally, Aquilani has represented Italy at youth level, and also at Euro 2008, the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup (winning a bronze medal in the tournament), and the 2014 FIFA World Cup with the senior Italian team. He made his full international début in November 2006 in a 1–1 draw against Turkey.
He made his debut in Serie A at the age of 18 on 10 May 2002 under then manager Fabio Capello against Torino. Roma won that game 3–1. He was loaned to Serie B club Triestina for the 2003–04 season to gain first team experience.
Returning to Roma in the 2004–05 season, he broke into the starting XI. On 31 March 2005 Aquilani signed a new 5-year contract with Roma, which worth €1.1M, €1.25M, €1.48M, €1.61M and €1.79M respectively from 2005–10 in gross annually. In the 2005–06 season, he scored the second goal in the derby victory on 26 February 2006, a victory in which Roma broke the record for the most consecutive wins in Serie A, a record later broken by Internazionale in the 2006–07 season.
In the following season, Aquilani was expected to be one of Roma's best players. He was given the number 8 shirt previously worn by Matteo Ferrari. Unfortunately, an injury forced him out of the game for several months. Aquilani returned to the field in May 2007 and featured in three games towards the end of the season, including the last two.
He scored two long range goals in the first two matches of the 2007–08 season against Palermo and Siena. Although he was injured in October 2007, he returned to the squad in January 2008.
Aquilani was injured again on 22 October 2008 against Chelsea. He returned to action on 11 January 2009 against Milan but picked up another injury in February. Although he played against Arsenal as a last minute substitute on 11 March 2009, he did not play any part for the rest of the season.
On 26 May 2009, Aquilani signed a new contract with Roma until 2013, adding three more years to previous deal. He was offered an annual gross salary of €3.2 million for 2008–09 season; €3.6 million in 2009–10 season; €3.9 million in 2010–11 season and ultimately €4.2 million in the last two year of the contract.
On 5 August 2009, Liverpool announced that they had agreed a deal with Roma for the transfer of Aquilani, subject to a medical test. The club subsequently announced that the player had passed the medical test and signed a five-year contract on 7 August 2009. Roma revealed that the fee was €20 million (£17 million) plus sporting bonus. Aquilani was handed the number 4 shirt, last worn by Sami Hyypiä, who joined Bayer Leverkusen at the end of the 2008–09 season. Although it was initially thought[by whom?] that he was recruited as a replacement for deep-lying playmaker Xabi Alonso, who had left the same summer to join Real Madrid, Aquilani actually preferred to play further up the pitch and is considered[by whom?] to be more of a dynamic attacking midfielder than a holding playmaker.
Aquilani's first game for Liverpool was a 2–1 4th round League Cup defeat to Arsenal, coming on in the 77th minute for Damien Plessis. He made his long awaited Premier league debut on 9 November 2009, as a late substitute against Birmingham City in a 2–2 draw. He then made a 30-second appearance against Hungarian club Debrecen on 24 November which Liverpool won 1–0 courtesy of a goal from David Ngog. Aquilani made his first start against Fiorentina in a Champions League match on 9 December 2009, where Liverpool lost 2–1. Aquilani made his first Premier League start against Wolves on 26 December 2009 and received a standing ovation from the Kop when he was substituted in the 84th minute for Daniel Pacheco.
Aquilani next started for Liverpool in their 2–0 win over Bolton Wanderers, where he got his second assist for Liverpool, again setting up Dirk Kuyt. He scored his first goal for Liverpool on 15 March 2010 against Portsmouth and he also assisted Fernando Torres for the fourth Liverpool goal. He was voted man of the match by the fans on Liverpool's official website. Aquilani also gained the man of the match award in his next Liverpool league start, against Fulham in a goalless draw at Anfield. In his next start for Liverpool he finished the match with three assists during a 4–0 away win against Burnley On 29 April 2010 he scored a goal against Atlético Madrid in the Europa League, cancelling out Atlético's first leg goal from Diego Forlán by scoring moments before half-time. Despite a great performance from Aquilani on the night, Liverpool eventually went out of the semi-finals on the away goal rule after Yossi Benayoun had put Liverpool 2–0 up, as Forlán scored his second of the tie in exta-time to take the aggregate score to 2–2. Aquilani won the LFC Man Of The Match award again after his performance. Aquilani also played in Liverpool's last 2 games of the season, a 2–0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea at Anfield and a goalless draw away to Hull City at the KC Stadium. In total, Aquilani played 26 times in his debut season for the reds, scoring twice but rarely playing the full 90 minutes.
With the departure of Rafael Benítez in June 2010, new manager Roy Hodgson played him in the pre-season, but stated publicly in mid-August that Aquilani may go back to his native Italy on loan for a full season, where he could gain match fitness through regular appearances.
On 21 August 2010, a deal between Liverpool and Juventus was agreed, to allow Aquilani to go on a one season loan deal to Juventus with an option of a permanent move. He made his debut for the Bianconeri on 12 September in a 3–3 draw with Sampdoria from coming on as a substitute for Simone Pepe. He came on as a sub again on 23 September in a 3–1 home defeat to Sicilian club Palermo. His first start for the club came on 26 September in a 4–2 win against Cagliari. After that Aquilani played 80 minutes against reigning champions Internazionale in a goalless draw before he scored his first goal for the club on 17 October in a 4–0 home win against Lecce two weeks later. He played his first full 90 minutes away to Bologna in another 0–0 draw. On 5 February, he played the full 90 minutes in a 3–1 away win over Cagliari with his next match being against Inter in a 1–0 win. On 21 April, Kenny Dalglish claimed Aquilani still had a future at Liverpool, despite claims that he wanted to remain in Italy. Aquilani returned to Liverpool after Juventus decided against making his transfer permanent, the club's owners declining to meet the previously agreed £14,000,000 transfer fee. While on loan at the Italian side, he managed a rate of 80% passing accuracy, which made him the third-best passer in Serie A.
On 4 July 2011, Aquilani started pre-season training with Liverpool, though his agent later confirmed that his wish was to stay at Juventus in Serie A. He was included in the squad's pre-season tour of Asia and marked his return to the team in a friendly against Guangdong Sunray Cave on 13 July. He subsequently impressed against a Malaysian XI on 16 July 2011.
On 25 August 2011, Aquilani joined Milan on loan for the 2011–12 season with Milan having an option to make the move permanent at the end of the season, despite pulling a string of impressive[peacock term] performances during the pre-season tour in Asia and subsequently becoming a favourite[not specific enough to verify] of the fans and the owners. Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish paid tribute to Aquilani on his departure, stating that the only reason for the loan was an inability to fit the player into the team's preferred formation. Damien Comolli, Liverpool director of football, said, "I want to pay tribute to the way Alberto has conducted himself during these discussions. Throughout the entire process, his only desire has been to play football and he has put this ahead of any other considerations and at personal cost to himself."
Aquilani made his debut for the Rossoneri in the opening game of the 2011–12 season against Lazio, and had an immediate impact by being involved in the build-up for Milan's first goal with a neat pass to Antonio Cassano, and assisting the second goal himself from a corner-kick. On 13 September 2011, he made his European debut for Milan in the UEFA Champions League against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou, coming off the bench to help Milan secure a 2–2 draw. On 18 September 2011, Aquilani scored his first goal for Milan in his second Serie A match for the club, heading home a cross from Cassano to open the scoring against Napoli at the San Paolo in Naples.
Aquilani returned to Liverpool for pre-season training in preparation for their 2012–13 season. He was included in the squad for Liverpool's pre-season tour of North America and played 45 minutes in the opening match against Toronto FC. Although his agent stated that Aquilani would remain at Liverpool, the club accepted an undisclosed fee for the midfielder from Fiorentina in Italy, and his transfer was completed on 3 August 2012. Following the transfer, Aquilani averred that only an excessive price that Liverpool had placed on him had prevented him completing permanent moves to Milan and Juventus following his successful loan spells. Fiorentina revealed that Aquilani had only cost the club €790,000 as other cost. Liverpool allowed Aquilani to leave the club for free thus Roma also received nothing from the bonus clause.
On 26 January 2014 in a match against Genoa Aquilani scored his first career hat-trick in a thrilling 3–3 draw. Aquilani reached the 2014 Coppa Italia Final with Fiorentina that season, where they were defeated by Napoli. The following season, Fiorentina finished the league in fourth place for a third consecutive season, while also reaching the semi-finals of the 2014–15 UEFA Europa League.
Following the conclusion of the 2014–15 season with Fiorentina, Aquilani became a free agent after his contract was not renewed. In August 2015, he signed with Portuguese club Sporting CP on a three-year contract, reportedly worth €1 million per season.
At youth level, Aquilani was capped for Italy at 2001 European Under-16 Football Championship qualifying. He won 2003 UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship with Italy and scored one goal, later being named the tournament's best player. He was then promoted to the U21 team and took part in 2006 European Under-21 Football Championship qualifying, but missed out on the final tournament due to injury.
Aquilani made his senior debut on 15 November 2006 in a 1–1 friendly against Turkey. He played as a regular during the 2007 U-21 Championship held in the Netherlands, scoring two goals, and being named in the "UEFA Team of the Tournament". Italy finished 5th and qualified for the 2008 Olympics. He was named to the 23-man roster for Euro 2008, his first major international tournament. He came on as a sub in Italy's third game of the tournament, which was a 2–0 victory over France. He started Italy's quarter-final match against Spain due to the suspensions of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso. Italy lost 4–2 in a penalty shootout after a goalless draw after extra time.
Aquilani scored his first goal for Italy during the 2010 World Cup qualification match against Montenegro on 15 October 2008, a tally he doubled later in the same match. In spite of this, the national team manager Marcello Lippi opted not to include him in the 23-man Italian squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
In Italy's UEFA Euro 2012 qualification campaign, Aquilani played his first game against Slovenia, playing for the full 90 minutes. He also started the next match against Estonia but came off in the first half due to a head injury. On 10 August 2011, he scored his third international goal with the late winner in a friendly against world champions Spain.
Aquilani took part at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup under manager Cesare Prandelli, where Italy managed a third-place finish; in the victorious bronze medal match against Uruguay, he converted a penalty in the resulting shoot-out.
On 11 October 2013, Aquilani scored the late equalising goal in Italy's 2–2 away draw against Denmark during the team's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign; this was his fifth goal for Italy. He was an unused member of Italy's 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, as the Italians suffered a group-stage elimination.
Style of play
Aquilani is a modern, hard-working and versatile playmaker who is capable of functioning in a number of midfield roles, from a deep-lying playmaker, to a more advanced trequartista or attacking midfielder. His favoured position is that of central midfielder or box-to-box midfielder, a position which enables him to make attacking runs or create space for team-mates with his movement, despite his lack of notable pace or physicality; he has also been used on the wing, or even as a wing-back on occasion. He has been praised for his vision, creativity, technique, quick incisive passing and long-range shooting. He is also accurate with his head and from set-pieces, which enables him to contribute to his team's offensive play with additional goals. Despite his talent in his youth, he has often been injury prone throughout his career, which has limited his playing time and affected his fitness and consistency, and as a result, he has been accused by some in the sport of not living up to his initial potential.
- As of 20 April 2016.
|2003–04||Triestina (loan)||Serie B||41||4||—||—||—||—||—||—||41||4|
|2010–11||Juventus (loan)||Serie A||33||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||34||2|
|2015–16||Sporting CP||Primeira Liga||19||3||5||1||8||1||0||0||32||5|
Updated to games played 18 November 2014.
|Italy national team|
- Scores and results list Italy's goal tally first.
|1.||15 October 2008||Lecce, Italy||Montenegro||1–0||2–1||2010 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|3.||10 August 2011||Bari, Italy||Spain||2–1||2–1||Friendly|
|4.||31 May 2013||Bologna, Italy||San Marino||4–0||4–0||Friendly|
|5.||11 October 2013||Copenhagen, Denmark||Denmark||2–2||2–2||2014 FIFA World Cup qualification|
- Italy U-19
- UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship Player of the Tournament: 2003
- UEFA European Under-21 Championship Team of the Tournament: 2007
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