On the 23 June it was announced that Iago Aspas had joined Liverpool on a long-term contract for a fee believed to be around £7.7 million. The Spanish striker joined from Celta Vigo after successfully helping them avoid relegation. Aspas was born in Moana, developed by Celta Vigo’s youth system and eventually made his debut for the first team during the 2007/08 season. Since then, Aspas has played 149 games for the La Liga side and has steadily improved every season. Some thought the step up to La Liga would be too much for Iago, but he took to it like a duck to water.
Aspas looks like a shrewd signing from Rodgers. He’s very versatile, favoring the role as a second striker although he was played as the main striker for most of last season. If Liverpool deploy a 4-3-3 formation, Aspas can play anywhere across the front line. The forward, who is predominantly left footed, drifts in when on the right and causes defenses countless problems, and on the left his jinking runs and quick turn of pace tears full-backs apart.
If a 4-2-3-1 formation is played, then Aspas can play anywhere across the three or as the main striker. When playing as a striker, Aspas commonly drops deep and starts attacks himself; creativity is a part of his game that is often underestimated. The Spaniard also fits perfectly into Liverpool’s style of play under Rodgers; Aspas has high fitness levels and presses the opposition, forcing them into making mistakes.
The way Aspas dribbles past opponents, his burst of pace, his sublime movement in and around the box are all reminiscent of Luis Suarez. Another similarity is the dark side to Aspas’ nature; Paco Hererra, who was the Celta Vigo manager at the time, once said he was “part Messi, part monster.” The prime example of the latter part to his character was when he was sent-off in the most important game of the season against fellow relegation strugglers and rivals Deportiva La Coruna for an unnecessary headbutt; he was subsequently banned for four of the last nine games.
Maybe Liverpool were looking to replace Suarez with someone equally passionate and competitive, but they may have just replaced one headache with another, if Suarez leaves, that is. If Suarez stays at Anfield, then it could be a difficult task to keep the two players under control while on the pitch. Alternatively, they could feed off of each other’s enthusiasm and form a deadly partnership.
To realize just how good Aspas is, and where Hererra’s Messi reference came from, one only needs to look at the way the Celta Vigo side revolved around him. Two of the most outstanding stats for the 25 year-old are that his shot accuracy of 57% would have been the second best in the Premier League last season, and he created more opportunities from open play than Lionel Messi. The Celta star racked up an impressive 12 goals and created 69 chances for a struggling side last season. He’s not at the level of Luis Suarez, and won’t serve as a replacement if the Uruguayan leaves, but he could be a vital player for Liverpool in the coming season.