Liverpool’s Spanish revolution seems like a lifetime ago now.
Rafael Benitez, Xabi Alonso, Luis Garcia. All three entered in the summer of 2004 and ultimately found universal acclaim amongst the Liverpool support. Antonio Nunez and Josemi entered too, but when you’re as successful as Liverpool were back then you tend not to care about the failures. Failure wasn’t really considered.
Liverpool were the European Champions, after all. The team with a Spanish flavour that had been assembled by Benitez were staggeringly, scarcely believably the kings of the continent in 2005. Reds fans frequently serenaded that team with a song to the tune of “La Bamba” raining down from The Kop.
These days Benitez, Alonso, Garcia, Fernando Torres and even Nunez and Josemi are all gone. Until this week, the only Spanish connections still in the first team picture were goalkeeper Pepe Reina, youngster Suso and left-back Jose Enrique. The former has been at Anfield longer than most of the furniture, Suso is just starting out, whilst the latter was signed from Newcastle and is uncapped by his country. He doesn’t really seem Spanish.
Now though, there is a new Iberian signing on the block well-trodden by his compatriots.
This week, providing he passes a medical, the 25-year-old forward Iago Aspas will become the first player to join Liverpool from a Spanish club since the days of Benitez.
What was once the favoured hunting ground for new Reds signings hadn’t been raided for three years until Aspas’ likely arrival from Celta Vigo. He is being brought in to supplement a Liverpool forward line which could end up looking quite a bit different when the new campaign kicks off.
That all depends on the much discussed future of Luis Suarez of course, but whilst efforts should be made not to compare the new Reds arrival to the potentially departing Uruguayan, Aspas might not have a choice but to be compared to his compatriots who’ve worn the Reds’ shirt previously.
At a reported £7.7 million fee (The Guardian), Aspas doesn’t arrive with huge expectations or with a potential millstone around his neck.
Thirty-seven goals in the past two seasons at Celta―one in which he helped the club achieve promotion to the Primera Division and the other in which he helped them stay in it―marked Aspas out as his club’s main man; a player who seemingly isn’t afraid to take the lead.
He might have to do that at Liverpool in a campaign which could just give the club a new Spaniard to admire.
Should Suarez get his wish and leave the club, there will be an added onus on Aspas, Daniel Sturridge, Fabio Borini and Philippe Coutinho―a player who had his own spell in Spain on loan at Espanyol―to provide the goals, but that shouldn’t faze them.
A left-footed player who appears to favour cutting inside from the right flank, perhaps Aspas’ arrival places fresh doubt on the Anfield future of Stewart Downing, who looked set to leave the Reds during the most recent campaign but instead turned things around to feature in Brendan Rodgers’ plans.
Those plans appear set to feature Aspas more than the Englishman next season though, and the addition of a fresh Spaniard will only whet Reds supporters’ appetites for the new campaign even more.
Those previous heights might have to wait a while to be scaled―and it will take more than the arrival of a relatively cheap forward from a relegation-threatened Spanish club to get anywhere near them again―but at least the signing of Aspas gives supporters the chance to both reminisce about previous arrivals from Iberia whilst enjoying a new one.
Inspiring a new Liverpool Spanish revolution might be too tall an order for the new man at the moment, but if he turns out to be more of a Garcia than a Nunez, then his new supporters are sure to be happy.