Stewart Downing's nightmare in Liverpool may finally be coming to a close. According to The Mirror's Neil Rowlands, Downing said Saturday that the Reds will allow him to leave in January's transfer window if he so chooses:
The manager has said I can leave if I want to...I've played for a long time and there are spells when you can be in and out of the side. At the minute I'm trying to play as many games as possible. If that doesn't happen I'm at an age where I can't be sat around. I need to play and the manager understands that.
That news is the latest turn in what has been nothing short of a tumultuous road for Downing during his time in Anfield. The 28-year-old winger joined Liverpool in the 2011-12 season following a transfer from Aston Villa, and the Reds paid a whopping $32.3 million for his services.
When acquired, Downing was considered one of the premier midfielders in England. A skilled craftsman at crossing the ball and dominant at times on both sides of the field, Liverpool ostensibly wanted Downing to spring life into their offense.
Unfortunately, it did not work as planned.
Last season, Downing struggled mightily, failing to record a goal or an assist in 36 Premier League appearances. His failures were indicative of the club as a whole, as Liverpool finished with an embarrassing 52 points in the table—the club's lowest in the three-point era.
After the season, turnover reigned supreme. Manager Kenny Dalglish was canned a little over a year after he took the job and was replaced by up-and-comer Brendan Rodgers.
Perhaps the biggest loser of that change was Downing, who went from an integral acquisition to an afterthought under the new management. Thus far, he has started only five games this season and substituted in three all season long.
Downing's relegation to the bench hasn't worked for Rodgers, whose team still has just 22 points after Saturday's stunning loss to Aston Villa.
As the Liverpool manager continues to shuffle his lineup in hopes of righting the ship, Downing may wind up becoming more integral by January. However, the damage may have already been done. A manager cannot just relegate a $32.3 million asset to the bench and expect him to take it like a good soldier—especially when he's still very much in his prime.
If Liverpool can find a way to recoup a hefty portion of their losses, they should look to move Downing in January. With the club struggling, there's little reason to keep around an unhappy star whose relationship with the manager cannot be on the best of terms.