There was always going to be a time when we'd have to talk about Stewart Downing and it's looking increasingly like that time is now. Downing is, of course, a subject that has been discussed ad nauseam on the periphery of other conversations surrounding new signings, squad depth, and where he may currently fall into place in Brendan Rodgers' vision for the new season, but actual transfer rumours were in short supply until yesterday.
Relegated to the last paragraph of an article about Luis Suarez's agent meeting with Brendan Rodgers and Ian Ayre to "clarify" Liverpool's position on the controversial striker, The Guardian oh so casually dropped the news that West Ham United are in talks with Liverpool about a potential move for Downing down to London. A bit of a buried lede, but Suarez controversy will always outweigh anything else that might be topical.
As it stands, the two clubs are apparently just talking and no transfer fees have been agreed to nor has a formal bid been made. It's deeply, deeply unlikely that Liverpool would ever recover the £20 million outlay they paid for Downing two years ago from whoever he might eventually be sold to, and the figure now being tossed around is closer to £8 million. During the Great Andy Carroll Debate of 2013, West Ham were very vocal about Financial Fair Play being prohibitive to their ability to pay large transfer fees, and having paid both £15 million for Carroll plus his increased wages, it would be interesting to see how a potential Downing fee and his not insignificant salary would weigh on their books.
Money aside, there's a slight feeling of deja vu about the possibility of this happening. West Ham would theoretically be purchasing Downing to feed Carroll all those crosses we've come to know and love. Liverpool fans might scoff at the idea, but given that Downing and Carroll rarely got significant minutes together on the pitch when they did play together — especially given Kenny Dalglish's occasionally infuriating choice to substitute one for the other — the failed experiment at Anfield may not exactly be the best predictor of what might happen at Upton Park. That Sam Allardyce is clearly building his team around Carroll in a way that Dalgish did not is another point in favour of anyone being brought in to play alongside the big man.
It's early days yet with this rumour and regardless of the potential of what he could do with Carroll, there are still a lot of strong opinions about whether or not Downing even possesses the skill set to do what Allardyce might want. Downing is a divisive figure, but regardless of one's feelings on his play last season or how serviceable he might be as a squad player going forward, many would not be disappointed to see the club's wage bill decreased if Downing were to move on, be it at West Ham or elsewhere.