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AS Roma has a tendency to find fantastic local talent and hold on to it. Players like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi have stayed at home and propelled their boyhood clubs toward greatness. Young Alessandro Florenzi is just the latest Roman to try to stamp his mark on the team.
So it was in 2004, when Alberto Aquilani broke into the giallorossi lineup after a year-long loan at Triestina. The promising youngster had been offered contracts by Chelsea and Arsenal, but remained in Roma's youth system and immediately started producing when he broke into the starting XI.
He helped the team to the record for consecutive wins in Serie A in 2005-06—a record broken the next year by Inter—and contributed greatly to Roma's Champions League squads of the era. He looked like another Roma lifer, but there were some red flags. An injury cost him a large chunk of the 2006-07 season, and the injury bug bit him again in 2008-09, this time in a career-altering way.
An injury in a Champions League match against Chelsea in October of '08 kept him out until the end of the winter break, but he was only on the field until February when another injury felled him. He saw the field in March as a last-minute sub against Arsenal in the Champions League but didn't play again the rest of the year.
In August of 2009, Aquilani was sold for €20 million to English giants Liverpool mere months after signing a contract extension. Most expected the Italy international to replace the departed Xabi Alonso in Rafael Benitez's squad, but Aquilani didn't make his EPL debut until November and didn't start his first match until a dead rubber Champions League match in December.
He gained some steam from there, but still wasn't fully fit and rarely played a full 90 minutes. When Benitez left for Inter that year, new manager Roy Hodgson publicly intimated that Aquilani would need to go out on loan to regain match fitness.
A successful loan stint to Juventus followed, but the bianconeri weren't able to make the deal permanent. Another loan to Italy, this time to Milan, was successful but partially interrupted by another injury.
By the time he finally made a full move to Fiorentina last season, Aquilani had gone from wunderkind to journeyman. Aquilani had a good season for Fiorentina, but his place on the national team—especially after a lackluster performance at the Confederations Cup—has probably passed on to younger players, and he's gone from potential legend to simply a solid piece in a solid team.