Liverpool became the undisputed laughing stock of English football last year when the summer transfer window shut on their fingers before they could sign a replacement for £35million striker Andy Carroll, who had just been ushered out on loan to West Ham United.
It was an embarrassing way for Brendan Rodgers to kick off his new gig, but few were critical of the Northern Irishman’s decision to ship Carroll out in the first place. The young England international had failed to fire with any consistency after his mega-money move from Newcastle United in January 2011, and many pundits questioned whether he was capable of forming a coherent partnership with the indispensable Luis Suarez.
However, Carroll’s excellent form with the Hammers – highlighted by a superb brace against West Bromwich Albion last weekend – has led to renewed queries about whether he might have a future on Merseyside after all. Rodgers insisted recently that while he had been keeping a close eye on the Geordie hitman, he had made no plans either way.
“It's nothing to discuss now,” he said after being prompted on the issue by Fox Sports. “It's something we'll speak about at the end of the season.”
It is possible that the former Swansea manager could be tempted to keep Carroll on, if only to avoid what would be a humiliating repeat of the events that left him with just one senior striker standing – albeit a handy one in Suarez. However, Liverpool’s stocks will look rather richer heading into the off-season this time around.
The mid-term purchases of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho were necessities, but few could have predicted just how well the new boys would settle in the North West. The ex-Chelsea striker has surprised and delighted with the skill and maturity of his all-round play, while the former Inter Milan playmaker has baffled opposition defences with audacious passing and trickery.
And that leads to the question of where Carroll would fit in at Anfield. In the first half of this season he would have featured regularly as the only viable alternative to Suarez. But now, with Sturridge proving capable of both leading the line and linking well with the Reds’ Uruguayan talisman, there seems to be even less space for the Geordie hitman under a manager who wasted no time shipping him out despite a glaring lack of reinforcements. It seems inevitable that he must seek pastures new.
That is not to say that Carroll could not succeed on Merseyside. The 24-year-old began to show more and more of his match-turning abilities towards the end of Kenny Dalglish’s reign, with a particularly impressive performance in the FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea. And despite his injuries this term he has been a valuable asset to West Ham, displaying both his sheer power and technical qualities in spades.
But there is no place for him at Liverpool, with the squad and the system as it stands. There is no chance Rodgers would be willing to sacrifice his game style and shift the focus off Suarez – arguably the standout player in the Premier League this season – in order to accommodate a striker who, for all that talent and presence, simply doesn’t fit his eye.
Liverpool would be lucky get back half of what they spent on a man whose current market value stands between £15-20m. But the sooner they sell him, the sooner both parties can get on with things. The club doesn’t need him soaking up wages or causing issues behind the scenes and, as a full international who once commanded one of the highest transfer prices in Premier League history, Carroll deserves much more than to be thought of as a last resort.