Yes, Iago Aspas embarrassed Barcelona… but that doesn’t mean Liverpool should have kept him
Iago Aspas’ double for Celta Vigo against Barcelona highlights his talent but Pete Jenson insists it doesn’t mean he would have been a success at former club Liverpool.
It’s not true that the only word Iago Aspas learned during his season at Liverpool was “yes”. During his time on Merseyside and in a live Spanish radio broadcast with Cadena Ser (foreign swearing doesn’t bother the censors) he admitted that he had also mastered the phrases: “f*** off” and “s***”.
These nuggets may even have become familiar to him as fans voiced concerns over his miserable form in that solitary season at Anfield where he scored one goal, against Oldham in the Cup.
As Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers finally got to be alone with his thoughts on Wednesday night after Liverpool’s marathon cup battle with Carlisle, his mind may have gone back to that Aspas goal when he saw his former player had scored twice in Celta Vigo’s 4-1 win over Barcelona.
Liverpool's Iago Aspas (L) is challenged by by Southampton's Victor Wanyama during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England September 21, 2013.Reuters
And if he clicked on the vines of Aspas taking Barça’s treble-winning trousers down with two of the goals of the season, chipping Marc Andre ter Stegen for the first and making a fool of Dani Alves for the second, he will have pondered one of football’s great mysteries – how can someone be so awful wearing one colour shirt and so good wearing another.
Liverpool supporters might struggle to believe it, but to Celta Vigo fans Aspas is a sort of Robbie Fowler figure. He makes them laugh, he makes them proud, he scores goals; he’s one of them.
He’s also not a great traveller, something that Liverpool should have considered before they parted with £7 million for his services. He missed his small hometown fishing village of Moaña when he moved 16km down the road to Vigo to play for Celta, so he was always going to yearn for Spain when he moved to Merseyside and then subsequently had no first team football to take his mind off the homesickness. The more Premier League clubs spend on players the less they seem to research their personalities or ask the most important question: “Will he fit in?”
He didn’t fit in at Liverpool. They told him they wanted him to be as comfortable as possible so he invited a group of best pals over for a prolonged visit. That’s not the way to integrate a player and it’s certainly not the way to get him to understand the language.
Iago isn’t daft. He may not have cracked English, but he speaks fluent Galician and Spanish and on the pitch he was too smart for Barcelona whose defence has now let in four against three different teams so far this season.
Celta Vigo have taken to playing the theme tune from the A-Team when the side scores in recent seasons. There were times on Wednesday when they would have had more trouble breaking down a back four of Face, Murdoch, Mr T and George Peppard. Barcelona’s defence looked nothing like La Liga and European Champions.
DATE IMPORTED:September 23, 2015Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas celebrates his goal against Barcelona during their Spanish first division soccer match at Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain September 23, 2015.Reuters
It’s a concern for Luis Enrique. Dani Alves has turned back into the player who looks ready for a lucrative move to a minor league after his brief renaissance last season. On the opposite flank Jordi Alba was missing through injury and Gerard Pique, only just back from a four-game suspension, was exposed alongside an out-of-sorts Javier Mascherano.
There are no damning conclusions to be drawn. The last away defeat suffered by Barcelona was against Real Sociedad in January. They bounced back from that omnishambles complete with its sacked Sporting Director scenario and the fiasco of Messi coming in with a note from home saying that he couldn’t train because he was sick (to the stomach of the coach). This is a minor hurdle in comparison and if they can stay in touch with the leaders until January when they can register new signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal then they can retain their title. But it is not going to be straightforward. Much like Iago Aspas’ career.
Celta Vigo's Daniel Wass (L) and Augusto Fernandez (R) fight for the ball with Barcelona's Neymar da Silva (C) during their Spanish first division soccer match at Balaidos stadium in Vigo, Spain September 23, 2015.Reuters
Should Liverpool have kept him? Probably not. Mario Balotteli’s free-kick for Milan on Tuesday doesn’t change the fact that he was Liverpool’s worst ever Premier League signing and Aspas' form for Celta doesn’t alter how he was too far from home at Liverpool to ever make a success of the move.
Liverpool have probably got an Aspas in the making in their own catchment area if they’d only look closer to home – someone who would be able to tear it up at Anfield, but look completely out of place if he ever signed for Celta Vigo.