After asserting himself in the first-team last season, Stewart Downing again looked set to be an important player in Brendan Rodgers' squad, with a healthy chunk of time reserved in each of the team's first three preseason matches and a rumored move to West Ham mooted a few weeks ago. After not appearing against Thailand or Olympiakos, however, it seemed the winger's favor had faded, and now the club are reportedly interested in offloading him prior to the end of the month, with Newcastle United apparently interested in bringing him in for £5m.
The story picked up steam out of nowhere earlier today, and now it's got enough traction that James Pearce from the Liverpool Echo has a full-length piece regarding the potential deal. From Pearce earlier this evening:
The 29-year-old had no intention of leaving Anfield after being reassured by Brendan Rodgers earlier in pre-season that he remained part of his plans. However, he now intends to hold talks over his future after learning of Liverpool's willingness to sell him on.
Downing, who was the subject of interest from West Ham last month, wants to stay put and fight for his place. However, if he's informed he's not going to feature then he will reluctantly agree to a transfer.
Other than the loss it would represent in terms of transfer fee--combined with Andy Carroll it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of £30m--it appears to be a positive move for the club. Downing's wages have been reported to be upwards of £70k per week, and given his return, it's a phenomenal waste of the club's resources to have invested so much and had so little recouped on the pitch. Chances created and whatever, he's not been a positive addition for Liverpool, and if they have a chance to part ways, most would agree that it's a chance that needs taking so long as they have the depth both up front and, silly as it might sound, at left-back.
What they'd do to replace him in those areas is another discussion; he hasn't featured at left-back in awhile and the club are linked with a number of names, and up front there seem to be a handful of dream targets but not necessarily anything practical just yet, though Diego Costa's arrival would assuage a small bit of the concern. He's not a natural wide player and not quite as influential, but he'd surely be an upgrade in terms of ability and presence in the forward areas. And, as many would be quick to note, an upgrade on Downing's influence over the past two seasons--improved as he might have been last year--wouldn't be hard to find.
For now it appears to be up to the player, though from Pearce's article it appears that the playing time would be more important than the wages, which is in Liverpool's favor if so. Sounds like there will be more to come during the next week or so, which is shaping up to have plenty of action in store.
**Don't do what you're about to do in the comments. Just don't. Discuss if you think the move makes sense, discuss who you'd like to see in his place if he does go, discuss how the money could be reinvested in the transfer market. But don't turn this into Thunderdome. It's not cute and not clever.**