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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

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By ESPN Staff
Aug 6, 2009

Aquilani set for medical ahead of Anfield move

Liverpool are closing in on the signing of Roma's Alberto Aquilani with boss Rafael Benitez insisting the midfielder will "excite'' the fans.

The 25-year-old Italy international also received the backing of former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise, a team-mate with the Rome club.

Aquilani is due on Merseyside for a medical and to complete a £20m deal that will see him sign a four-year contract.

Benitez, who has completed the sale of midfielder Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, said: "Roma have allowed us to talk with him, so that's good and positive. He is a player with the quality we are looking for.

"He can play a little bit higher (further forward) than Javier Mascherano - maybe between him and Steven Gerrard. He is a good passer, the final ball is good, and he also works. If he can settle down properly in England he can be a very good addition.

"I think the signing should excite the fans. He won the under-19 European Championship with his country, and the under-21 too. He has some trophies, including the Italian Cup.

"I always remember one game - England versus Italy Under-21s at Wembley, and he was man of the match in a 3-0 win.''

Aquilani's departure from Roma comes with the club captain Francesco Totti claiming: "Alberto will be missed very much by everyone here.''

That includes Riise, who joined Roma from Liverpool for £4m in June 2008. Riise said: "When I first came to Roma, I didn't know a thing about Aquilani.

"I knew all about Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Philippe Mexes, of course, but Aquilani was the player who surprised me the most in my first months with what he could do.

"He's really good on the ball, with good passing and good movement. He works hard and is a good professional. He likes to have the ball at his feet but not because he likes to dribble, he just wants to keep the team moving. He never stands still, he is always on the run.

"He certainly runs more than Xabi and is probably more dangerous in terms of getting in the box and trying to score goals. When I came to Rome he was my neighbour and helped me out a lot. He is a good friend. Liverpool will be getting a very good player.''

Alonso completed his £30m move to Madrid by "thanking the Liverpool family for five very enjoyable years at the club''.

Former colleague Dirk Kuyt, who captained Liverpool to a 2-0 win over Lyn Oslo on Wednesday night, maintained that the club must move on now the Alonso saga is over. Kuyt said: "Alonso has been great for Liverpool, but we will fight on.''

Liverpool bounced back from their disappointing 3-0 defeat in Barcelona by Espanyol on Sunday, with Kuyt saying: "We are happy with the result in Norway after the defeat against Espanyol.

"It is always good to have another game quickly and to win the way we did. It was a clean sheet and a good performance. Sometimes you lose to a team like Espanyol and you just have to get over it.

"There's still a week and a half to go until we play Spurs in our first league games and that's the most important thing for us. If we win against them then we've had a good pre-season. If we lose, we've had a bad pre-season.''

Kuyt has captained Liverpool a couple of times in pre-season but acknowledges he is behind Gerrard and Jamie Carragher in rank of command.

He said: "It means a lot to be captain of Liverpool but obviously I know that Stevie is number one and we have Jamie as well. With so many changes in pre-season everyone needs to play and I've had the armband a couple of times - it's a great honour.''

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