Will Aquilani shine at Milan?

The speculation surrounding Alberto Aquilani finally ended last week as he secured his second consecutive season-long loan move to Serie A. He arrives at Scudetto holders Milan following interest from Fiorentina and Juventus, who declined the option to purchase the former Roma midfielder permanently.
In a turbulent two seasons since leaving the Olimpico, Aquilani, 27, now has an opportunity to claim a place in a side competing for all major prizes at home and in the Champions League. His departure from Liverpool had been facilitated by new arrivals at Anfield placing him further down a congested pecking order despite impressing during pre season.
Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool Head Coach, alluded to this while commenting on the player’s departure: “The problem for us was trying to get him into the team. We couldn’t get him in the team.” For the Azzurri international this could have been potentially damaging as he fights for a place in the Euro 2012 squad next summer. Additionally, after suffering so much time on the sidelines with injury, having to return to the bench after an impressive 33 appearances in Turin last season would have compounded his frustration
Expectations in Milan are big as they look to retain their title and make progress in Europe after a disappointing exit to Tottenham Hotspur last season. Despite this expectation it has been a quiet and inexpensive mercato at Milanello with the departure of Andrea Pirlo – a player whose arrival at the Delle Alpi appeared to signal the end of the Old Lady’s interest in Aquilani. The talk from Adriano Galliani, and from the player himself has centred on filling the boots of the longstanding Pirlo, a lynchpin of past European Cup winning Milan sides.
It was often citied of Aquilani by the English Press that he had failed to adapt to the speed and physical challenge of the Premier League. However, following his return from long term injury, his strongest asset has been a quick thought and speed on the ball. This was particularly evident in his recent pre-season performances for Liverpool – when playing in a similar position to that Clarence Seedorf had excelled in, and Kevin Prince Boateng made his own. Whether his new Coach, Max Allegri, would wish to deploy him in a similar role however, is open to question. If he is employed in a deeper role, where the competition is equally as fierce, there is no guarantee that he can attain the starting place that Dalglish cited as the central reason for his departure from England.
Aquilani’s loan is a calculated gamble that Milan certainly feel has been worth taking. Favourable loan terms, coupled with the possibility of the additional creativity – sorely missing during their frustrating European campaign last season – means that this risk is manageable while the benefits may be considerable. For the new Rossoneri No. 14 it is another fresh start at one of the giant clubs of European football. However, the risk of his failing to secure his position becomes considerably larger on a personal level.

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