With a brace in Celta’s 2-0 win over Huesca, Iago Aspas has reached 10 league goals for the fourth consecutive season. Another milestone in a prolific second tenure with the 31-year old’s boyhood club, this time without a move to a bigger club waiting around the corner.
Aspas made that switch once, joining Liverpool in 2013. You can’t blame a player for upgrading his financial status and moving to a big-name club, although Liverpool before that season weren’t the hottest destination in Europe.
Aspas joined the Reds for £9 million after just one season in La Liga, most of his track record at that point being in the Segunda Division with Celta. It showed in most of his time in England. Aspas isn’t the first nor the last player to find himself ill-suited for the style and expectations at a different league, but he truly did seem like a player never capable of succeeding at such a level.
In 2015 Aspas made the way back to Celta and hasn’t looked back since. 65 goals in 112 La Liga matches, helping Celta to 6th, 13th, 13th and so far this season, 11th in the league. It’s his form with Celta that brought him to the attention of those making call ups to the national team, making his debut in 2016 and overall scoring 6 goals in 17 caps, including one in the 2018 World Cup against Morocco.
There have been plenty of links and rumors suggesting Aspas is going to leave Celta for a second time – In 2017 and last summer as well, especially after Julen Lopetegui was named to be the Real Madrid manager, a job he’s already been relieved of. Aspas remains at Celta, perhaps because the club hasn’t received a good enough offer, or perhaps Aspas knows it’s the best place for him, even if it isn’t the best club he can play for.
Aspas, in more than one way, possesses similarities to Antonio di Natale, the prolific Italian striker who starred for Udinese between 2004 and 2016. The 42-time capped player for Italy scored 191 goals in 385 Serie A matches for Udinese. He could have easily played for the bigger and richer sides in Italy, but I doubt he would have had the career he produced anywhere else.
Perhaps an even older comparison is Matthew Le Tissier. A Southampton man from 1986 till 2002, turning down dozens of offers from the Premier League’s more prestigious sides. Le Tissier is one of the more famous EPL players of the 1990’s, known for his flair and incredible goals, scoring 161 in 443 matches. Again, I doubt his career would have been as successful anywhere else.
Aspas, already in his early 30’s, no longer has the profile Europe’s giants seek for in players. Small clubs are often a place most players can bring out the best of themselves. Not enough good players realize that chasing the big club dream isn’t always the best career path.