Iago Aspas: Liverpool flop to Celta Vigo hero
The career of Iago Aspas eventually came full circle: after showing promise while playing for Celta de Vigo, he went on to suffer a disastrous spell at Anfield; however, the Spanish striker is once again the talisman for the club where he first made his debut.
Aspas' first taste of professional football came with Celta de Vigo B in the Spanish second division. After scoring 11 times in 84 games for the reserves, he earned a call-up to the senior team and was given his debut in 2007-08. Despite a long adjustment period, he made his major breakthrough in the 2012-13 campaign after finding the net on 23 occasions. The goals were a major factor for the Celestes in their promotion to the top flight, which saw Aspas voted best forward in the Segunda Division. He then scored a respectable 12 goals in his first ever season in La Liga; which tempted Liverpool to part with £7 million to secure his services.
When he arrived on Merseyside, Aspas was an unknown quantity in England and over the following season, he failed to improve his reputation in the Premier League. The new Liverpool acquisition only appeared in 14 league games, failing to score during that time, which had a huge effect on his confidence. With performance levels not up to the required standards, Liverpool decided to cut their losses and Aspas returned to Spain on a season-long loan. At Sevilla, the striker struggled to produce in front of goal, mainly in league encounters, and after a two-year absence, he was reunited with Celta Vigo in June 2015.
Back at the club where he had always felt most comfortable, Aspas has flourished over the past two seasons. The Celta frontman scored 18 times last campaign and proved he was steadily returning to his best form. This season, Aspas is performing at an even greater level; in just 17 La Liga matches, he's already scored 11 goals, including a crucial strike in the 4-3 victory over Barcelona at the Balaidos.
The attacker's formidable record puts him fourth on the list of this season's top goalscorers in Spain, only behind three of the world's most iconic players in Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Cristiano Ronaldo; and ahead of superstar duo Antoine Griezmann and Neymar. Aspas is playing an instrumental role this season for Eduardo Berizzo's side, who currently sit eighth in the table, and his superb displays earned him the La Liga player of the month award in October.
Aspas reached another milestone two months ago when he received a call-up for his national team; Spain manager, Julen Lopetegui, was convinced by the Celta player's goalscoring exploits, ability to pick out a pass and expertise at linking up with teammates. During his first and only international game, Aspas came off the bench to score against England in a friendly at Wembley, which helped rescue a 2-2 draw for La Roja; his career continues to hit new heights, and at 29-years-old, he has several more seasons at the top left ahead of him.
In hindsight, the decision Aspas made to join Liverpool was flawed as he couldn't speak any English, which had a big impact on him not adjusting to the Premier League. Although he briefly entered the footballing wilderness, he's now playing in a side where he's regularly showcasing his talents on the pitch. Some players only reach their peak when they play for a certain club, in a specific environment with supporters that adore them; Aspas is one of those particular players and now back at his rightful home, the Spanish striker is finally fulfilling his potential with Celta Vigo.