Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is convinced Andy Carroll can again become a goal machine, just not necessarily at Anfield.
Rodgers believes that at the age of 22, the £35million price tag hung heavy around Carroll's neck when he joined from Newcastle in January 2011. Upon Rodgers' arrival last summer, Carroll was farmed out on loan to Sunday's visitors to Anfield, West Ham, with whom he has scored five goals in 17 appearances during an injury-hit campaign.
Rodgers has this week made it clear he will not make a firm decision on whether Carroll stays or goes until the end of the season, but is convinced the 24-year-old still has a big future in the game. "It was very unfortunate for Andy when he joined this club because he had limited experience of the Premier League," said Rodgers.
"Through no fault of his own he arrived on the back of an incredible price tag for someone so young and inexperienced, and the early stages were difficult for him.
"But there's no doubt Andy has great qualities. Look at one of his two goals last week for West Ham from the corner (in a 3-1 win over Wigan). There are not too many better sights in football when you've the big guy going and heading the ball like that. Three of his five goals this season have come from set plays, one from a cross and the other a penalty.
"As to his future, there are other things involved, it's not as simple as him being here. There are other things we need to consider in it all. But do I think he can be a top player? Is he a top player? He certainly has that potential. If he gets that opportunity of playing in a team that suits his style, then there's always a chance."
The last comment is arguably the most telling because the way Liverpool and Rodgers like to play, with the ball on the ground, is undoubtedly not to Carroll's style. With his Anfield days seemingly numbered, and with Liverpool understood to be happy to cut their losses if a club offers £17million, speculation is rife as to a likely destination.
A return to Newcastle and a potential swap deal with Hatem Ben Arfa has been rumoured, although Rodgers has refused to bite.
"That's normal, that's the football world. There's always gossip and speculation," said Rodgers. "The important thing is Andy is at a very good club with a very good manager. As I've said, it's one where we will see it through to the end of the season and we'll take it from there."
Rodgers will at least not have to cope with Carroll on Sunday as the striker is not allowed to play against his parent club. Going into the game, Rodgers' only doubt is forward Raheem Sterling, who is struggling with a thigh injury.