Remembering Iago Aspas' time at Liverpool

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After a number of seasons marred by uncertainty and subpar performances under Roy Hodgson, followed by an equally underwhelming season under the tutelage of club legend Kenny Dalglish, there was an air of optimism surrounding Liverpool in 2013.

A fresh-faced Brendan Rodgers had taken the reigns from Dalglish the previous season, but signings were needed ahead of the 2013/14 campaign to make good on a progressive seventh-placed finish.

While Victor Moses and Mamadou Sakho were the more expensive arrivals and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was the one to watch, it was Iago Aspas who all eyes were on, signing from Celta Vigo in June 2013 for a fee of around £7.7m.

Liverpool have had a mixed history with the number nine shirt. They’ve had it as good as Fernando Torres, Ian Rush and more recently Roberto Firmino. They’ve had it bad too, though – very bad. Names like Christian Benteke, Andy Carroll and Aspas all fall into that category and should never be mentioned again.

Aspas had signed off the back of a fine 2012/13 campaign with Celta, bagging 12 goals and assisting seven in all competitions. Luis Suarez had already begun to forge a magnificent legacy as Liverpool’s talisman at this point, but no great side is a title-winning side without competition. Aspas would provide that with goals and goal creation – or so Rodgers had hoped.

What makes this one even more frustrating for Liverpool fans is looking back on just how exciting Aspas looked in his unofficial debut. Coming on as a second-half substitute in a friendly against Preston, Aspas was electric and linked up well with a young Raheem Sterling to feed him through on goal, bagging an assist. A left-footed curler soon followed for the Spaniard, who had explosively burst onto the scene like Kane at Survivor Series 1997.

Was he about to become the next Fernando Torres? No. Not even remotely close. Aspas managed an assist against Stoke in his Premier League debut, but that early flurry was as good as it got. Struggling with adapting to life in England having only managed to pick up the language in flutters, Aspas quickly became rotation fodder at best.

The Spaniard had to wait until January 2014 to register his first (and only) official goal for the Reds, in an FA Cup tie at home to Oldham Athletic. Oldham was his level in England, unfortunately.

A timid presence in the opportunities he was afforded, Aspas never did enough to prove to Rodgers that he deserved a place in a side that had developed a scintillating attack comprised of Suarez, Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. We’re in 2013/14 here; Sturridge basically owned the Premier League at this point, remember?

The combination of poor fortune and not taking the chances early on truthfully never stood Aspas in good stead for a late-season revival, especially as Liverpool chased down the Premier League title. There was no room for slip ups (pun intended) and everyone making the XI had earned their stripes by this point, while Aspas remained a lost soul.

Aspas celebrates his one and only goal for the club | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

After a run of six league games as an unused substitute, he came on late against Chelsea in April 2014. Following that slip, Liverpool were chasing the game down to salvage their title hopes and Aspas could’ve been the hero. What was his contribution? Aimlessly passing the ball from a corner into the feet of Willian, during a spell of Liverpool dominance. The worst corner ever taken in Premier League history.

That corner was the last memory Liverpool fans held of Aspas in a season they will never forget for all the wrong reasons, and spelled the end of his career at Anfield. He would spend the following season on loan at Sevilla, before re-signing with Celta in 2015, where he has enjoyed a resurgence in the Spanish top flight.

He has since been responsible for knocking Manchester United out of European competition in a bid to sooth some lost love. But no resurgence will ever be able to combat such a torrid nine months on Merseyside, unfortunately.

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