Rafa Benitez says that Liverpool midfielder Alberto Aquilani will be picked when he thinks it is right.
The Liverpool boss spent £20million on the Italian international last summer. The former Roma player was seen as a replacement for Zabi Alonso, who quit Anfield for Real Madrid last year, but a combination of injuries and Benitez’s reluctance to play him has restricted the Italian to fewer than 10 appearances for the Reds since his arrival.
“When you have been injured for a while, it’s not easy for a player,” said Benitez.
“Then when you are available and the team isn’t doing well, it makes it even more difficult.
“You have to decide if you can afford to give him two or three games when you know he’s maybe not at the level he could be, so you could end up losing some of them.
“Alberto isn’t stupid. He knows the priority now has to be the team and what’s best for that. All he can do is keep training and making sure he is ready when we need him.”
Benitez dismissed claims that Aquilani did not play in the recent game at Wolves because of their pitch.
“When I didn’t play him at Wolves, it wasn’t to do with the state of their pitch,” he continued.
“It was because of the kind of game and because others were available, which meant we could manage in a different way. So whether I play him at Wigan or not isn’t a decision that will be determined by the pitch.
“But we have had a conversation about things and he knows the situation. Alberto is a very good professional, who was a big name in Italy, and he wants to show his quality here.
“When you’re like that but cannot play for three or four months and then you’re available but can’t play because the team is maybe doing really well or has problems, it’s a difficult situation for any professional.”
Aquilani’s agent insisted that the 25-year-old was still committed to his English switch.
“Alberto made a decision of a lifetime,” said Franco Zavaglia.
“He is fine at Liverpool and next year will be the most important for him.”