Remembering Fabio Aurelio at Liverpool and his subtle touch of class
Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Alisson Becker – three Champions League winners currently flying the flag for Brazil on Merseyside. But few Liverpool fans will forget the club’s first Brazilian, a cultured full-back with a wand of a left foot.
It can be argued that the full-back position is one of the hardest positions on the pitch to thrive in. it is almost certainly the most physically demanding, with players expected to offer an attacking threat but also, most importantly of all, be sound defensively. Combining the two efficiently is the mark of a fine player.
Many have tried and failed to succeed in the role, and for Liverpool fans, the names of Emiliano Insua, Alberto Moreno and Aly Cissokho do not inspire fond memories.
But one name that Liverpool fans will remember fondly is Fabio Aurelio. He was no Andy Robertson, but Aurelio’s six-year stint in the role was certainly one of the more successful.
Although his time with the Reds, and ultimately his career, was overshadowed by injuries and he drifted off into obscurity, there were plenty of special moments to endear himself to the Anfield faithful.
Aurelio arrived on Merseyside having rose to prominence in Europe under Rafael Benitez at Valencia, twice winning La Liga as well as tasting UEFA Cup success. It was no surprise then when Benitez decided to bring the Brazilian to Liverpool, signing him on a free transfer in July 2006.
He quickly became a key figure in his debut season, and his creative ability was always a weapon, notably laying on goals for Daniel Agger and Peter Crouch during a 4-1 win over Arsenal in March 2007.
But just as he began to hit his stride, Aurelio suffered the first of many injuries that would plague his time with the Reds, as he ruptured his Achilles in the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final against PSV Eindhoven.
Injuries aside, Aurelio was one of the classiest left-backs Liverpool had seen in recent years. While his predecessor John Arne Riise will always be remembered for having one of the fiercest left feet in the game, Aurelio’s touch and precision offered a more subtle touch of class.
Take his first Liverpool goal for example, clear evidence of the technical ability he had in abundance, teeing himself up on the edge of the area, before sweetly striking a left-foot volley into the top corner during victory against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.
Aurelio netted 10 times for Valencia during his final season in Spain, but he only scored four times in total for the Reds.
And the Bolton strike was left overshadowed by his dead-ball wizardry.
In the latter stages of the 2008-09 season, Aurelio produced two outstanding set-piece strikes, made all the sweeter by the fact they came away to arch-rivals Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.
Nemanja Vidic had already been sent off in the reverse fixture at Anfield earlier in the season and suffered the same fate when he hauled down Steven Gerrard as the Reds captain burst through on goal. What came next only rubbed salt further into the wounds of the home fans at Old Trafford.
Up stepped Aurelio to dispatch a tremendous free kick, leaving Edwin Van Der Sar rooted to the spot in a 4-1 victory for the Reds.
— SI TV (@watch_SITV) January 28, 2019
While this free-kick displayed his outstanding technique, his second a month later at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final showed his intelligence and cheek.
Of the 38,000 supporters inside Stamford Bridge, not one could have predicted what was about to happen when Aurelio lined up a free-kick wide on the right-hand side around 35 yards from goal.
One man who certainly didn’t envisage what was to happen was Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal. As he prepared for an in-swinging cross towards the far post, he was left stranded as Aurelio whipped the ball so that it crept inside the near post.
It seemed ridiculous to even attempt something so audacious, but for Aurelio it was the obvious thing to do.
Fábio Aurélio vs Chelsea em 2009.
— Liverpool FC Brasil (@livfcbr) January 31, 2017
Aurelio left Anfield in 2010 after being offered a pay-as-you-play deal by the club, such were his injury troubles. But upon Benitez’s departure from the club, new manager Roy Hodgson would make it one of his first tasks to bring Aurelio back to Anfield.
Yet his final two seasons for the Reds were hampered by injuries, and Aurelio departed two years later after making just three appearances in his final year.
It left many to wonder what heights Aurelio could have reached for the Reds had he managed to stay fit. He made 134 appearances in six years, a disappointing return that highlights the impact injuries had over his career.
For a man regarded so highly by one of the world’s best football managers in Benitez, talent was never the problem for the left-back.
While we will never know what Aurelio could have achieved if he had been gifted an injury-free ride during his career, what we do know is that he will always be remembered as one of the better Liverpool left-backs of recent times.
By Sam Cooke