Football

Return of rejects can be good news for Liverpool

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Lille can't afford to keep Cole. (©GettyImages)
Lille can't afford to keep Cole. (©GettyImages).

Such was Liverpool's flurry of transfer activity last summer, Kenny Dalglish was able to allow two experienced internationals in Alberto Aquilani and Joe Cole to leave Anfield on loan.

The former departed for the San Siro in a deal that was expected to be made permanent the following summer, while the far from cultured Cole also went continental with a move to French champions Lille.

Dalglish's decision to send both Aquilani and Cole away from Merseyside was made far easier by the extravagant additions of Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, while Charlie Adam was also bought to bolster the Liverpool midfield.

The Liverpool manager could, however, be set for a headache of sorts at the end of the season, with reports suggesting both Aquilani and Cole will return to Anfield, when the informed opinion was that the pair would make their moves permanent.

The terms of Aquilani's move to AC Milan stipulated that, if he played 25 matches for last year's Serie A winners, the Rossoneri would be required to buy the Italian for £6 million.

This appeared a formality when the 27-year-old midfielder had made 20 appearances before the turn of the year but, it has emerged, the transfer clause only relates to the completion of full matches, and injury curtailed his progress somewhat.

Aquilani spent almost three months on the sidelines before making a return in March, and apparent concerns over his fitness have led Milan to reconsider their options, and reduce his role in order not be drawn into a permanent transfer.

"I don't know if AC Milan want to buy him. We must still wait," his agent Franco Zavaglia told gazzettagiallorossa.it.

"Alberto has recovered from injury and is back at the disposal of the coach. He is only three games short of the automatic right to buy."

Lille, meanwhile, are keen to retain the services of Cole but, with his £90,000-per-week salary heavily subsidised by his parent club, admit they will struggle to do so.

"It’s rare that an England international comes to France and that he then publicly declares he wants to stay," Lille president Michel Seydoux told reporters.

"We will see. I haven’t found a machine yet that lets you make beautiful bank notes by pedalling.

"It’s true that the league table will have a bearing on Lille’s recruitment."

Liverpool are, then, faced with the reality of Aquilani and Cole returning to Merseyside and, should they fail to find potential buyers, will have to accommodate them next season.

Although Fenway Sports Group (FSG) plan to trim their squad of its highest earners in the summer, would welcoming back Aquilani and Cole really be much of a problem in the short-term, given Liverpool's failings this term?

The Reds spent over £40 million on the signings of Henderson, Downing and Adam last year and all have failed to make an impact of note during their first season on Merseyside.

In 118 appearances for Liverpool between them, the midfield trio have contributed just five goals and seven assists, with six of the latter registered by Adam alone.

Whereas Aquilani and Cole can boast five goals and nine assists in almost half as many games - 62 between them - than their soon to be Liverpool teammates.

These statistics are hardly proof that the loan pair can instantly transform the Reds' fortunes but, with the Liverpool midfield found wanting for the majority of the season, the introduction of two experienced pros can only serve to benefit them next term.

The Reds' victory in the Carling Cup final confirmed their place in European competition for next season, regardless of where they finish in the league, and the need for a larger squad will soon become apparent.

Not only that, but the experience of Cole and Aquilani on the continent far outweighs that of Downing and Adam, while Henderson has yet to feature in European competition.

Yes, Liverpool can invest during the summer transfer window to reinforce their midfield, but the level of spending seen last year is unlikely to happen again, particularly given how profligate they were with funds in 2011.

Dalglish may be required to get the best out of what he already has if when the next campaign begins and, should Aquilani and Cole stay fit, they will be great assets in Liverpool's quest to qualify for Champions League football once again.

Topics:
Football
Premier League
Liverpool
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