While yesterday's sermon dealt with loss in the most visceral sense, the potential departure of our patron saint, today we talk about a possible return; no, not of a club legend, but of a local kid who, though he never quite fulfilled his potential, filled a variety of roles for some of Roma's most beloved squads. We're talking about the return of the Little Prince, none other than Alberto Aquilani, one of the better borne and bred Romans to ever stride upon the Olimpico.
While most of us probably remember Aquilani as your run of the mill incredibly-talented-but-perpetually-injured-would-be star, his time with Fiorentina has been remarkably productive, both in terms of actual matches played and on-pitch performance. Since making the switch to Firenze in the summer of 2012, Aquilani has made 91 appearances and scored 14 goals across all appearances.
Aquilani's current deal with the Viola is set to expire at the end of the season and thus far, contract renewal/extension talks have borne no fruit, meaning The Little Prince may soon be without a castle to call home. Andrea D'Amico, Aquilani's agent is reportedly working the phones trying to find his client suitable employment for next season.
And, hey wouldn't you know it; many of those calls have been to Roma. So, how exactly would the Little Prince manage his return to Rome and where would he fit in?
Aquilani's current deal pays him €1.8m per year, so that's not really an issue, as that's only a hair more than they're currently paying Federico Balzaretti and even Jose Cholebas. However, his place on the squad is a tougher nut to crack. Between Miralem Pjanic, Kevin Strootman, Radja Nainggolan, Daniele De Rossi, Daniel De Silva (let's throw him in there), Seydou Keita, Salih Uçan, and Leandro Paredes, Roma's midfield will be awfully crowded next season—yes, some of those names might be erased before August, but you get the picture.
But, given Roma's continued connection to Rio Mavuba, it seems clear that Rudi Garcia is not particularly stoked about his reserve midfielders for next season. If this year was any indication, we can probably expect to see Uçan and Paredes shipped out on loan (if only), while Keita and Nainggolan"s respective futures are far from clear, so finding minutes for Aquilani might not be a stretch.
On the surface, if everything remains status quo and Nainggolan is brought back, it's not hard to imagine one of Mavuba or Aquilani serving as next season's Keita, filling in the gaps behind DDR and Pjanic, though Aquilani certainly has more offensive upside than either Mavuba or Keita at this point, though to be fair, Mavuba is decidedly a defensive midfielder.
In his past two seasons alone, Aquilani has banged home 14 goals for the Viola in all comps, while averaging nearly one key pass per match, while making, as we mentioned, over 90 appearances, largely playing in a central role.
He may never have been the world beater many had imagined, but at 31-years-old and with a string of healthy seasons finally under his belt, Alberto might be an ideal fourth or fifth midfielder next season, one who can initiate an offense while getting his nose dirty on the defensive end.