A FORMER Liverpool midfielder was the driving force behind Lazio’s stunning 2-1 success at Juventus.
No, not fan-favourite Lucas Leiva, who left in the summer after ten seasons at Anfield.
But Luis Alberto — who made just nine appearances under Brendan Rodgers in the 2013-14 season.
The Spaniard, now 25, was a Liverpool player for three years, without ever really getting a look-in.
And the Reds’ loss is most certainly Lazio’s gain as Alberto has enjoyed a sensational season in which the Biancocelesti find themselves in third place — ahead of reigning champions Juventus.
Ciro Immobile has stolen the headlines with a staggering 15 goals in 11 matches for Simone Inzaghi’s men.
But Alberto has been just as influential from midfield.
The former Barcelona B star joined on the final day of the 2016 summer transfer window as a replacement Inter Milan-bound Antonio Candreva.
However, despite enjoying a decent end to the last campaign, and starting the 2017-18 season so well, it hasn’t always been so easy for him in Serie A.
He struggled to break into the team early on and admitted he thought about quitting the game as he failed to convince himself he was good enough.
Alberto met with Spain’s national sports psychologist Juan Carlos Alvarez Campillo, and admits he was given help in his bid to overcome his personal issues.
He explained back in September: “I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
“It was Campillo who made me realise I wasn’t fully aware of my qualities.
“Now I believe and am ready to risk more. I do things I hadn’t had the courage to do earlier.”
Many predicted a swift fall for Lazio despite impressing end to last season, following the sale of star man Keita Balde to Monaco in the summer.
But Alberto has benefited from the Senegalese ace’s departure.
With Immobile, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Stefan de Vrij and Felipe Anderson, Lazio boast several players, who will have several top suitors among Europe’s elite.
But Alberto has arguably been more important than any of his team-mates this season.
The Spaniard and Immobile are the duo who have created more chances for one another than any other combination in Serie A so far in this campaign.
Alberto has started all 11 games in all competitions this season — already surpassing the ten appearances he made in the whole of 2016-17.
Boss Inzaghi described him as “indispensable” and he showed what a versatile player he can be by filling in in three different positions during the 3-2 win over Vitesse Arnhem in the Europa League.
Alberto was initially a second striker, before dropping back into attacking midfield and later in a defensive role just ahead of the back four.
That was a position was often deployed in last season, before the arrival of former Liverpool team-mate Lucas.
But his incredible form in behind the striker has seen him pushed further forward on a regular basis in this campaign.
If Lazio’s early form does lead to a memorable end, Alberto will now doubt have been at the forefront — and that could yet cost him his summer freedom.
Because, while Spain boss Julen Lopetegui has so much quality at his disposal, he can’t keep ignoring Alberto for too much longer.