Liverpool have already generated a lot of coverage in the global media about their rumoured transfer-market activities this summer, on both an incoming and outgoing basis. One of the most talked-about players currently at the club is record signing Andy Carroll, and whether he will remain at the club for the long term or be shipped out by Brendan Rodgers.
Carroll has spent this season out on loan at West Ham United in the Premier League, and despite a first half of the season largely disrupted by injury, he has found form at the back end of the campaign and now has a tally of seven goals from 20 starts in the league, making him the Hammers' joint-top scorer.
However, others take the view that he could simply come back to Anfield and play a part in the ongoing renewal of the squad under Brendan Rodgers—but that appears to be the least attractive option to both club and player.
A Question of Fitness
Andy Carroll is a bit of a giant; at 1.91 metres tall and with a very muscular frame, he is not an athletic specimen but rather a powerful and strong forward. What it has translated to is that when Carroll suffers an injury, he is not a quick healer and, more importantly, he does not quickly regain his match fitness.
Carroll often needs a run of four or five matches to get his peak physical condition back, and as a player who is not particularly agile or fast at the best of times, he can seem lumbering and ungainly as he struggles to keep up with play.
Now showing his best form for West Ham, it is no surprise that it is coming after an injury-free run of games. In fact, Carroll has featured in the last 12 league games in a row for Newcastle, with the one exception in that run of the match versus Liverpool which he was ineligible for. During that run he has scored six goals and claimed two assists, proving an important part of the West Ham attack.
Would he get that regularity of games at Liverpool?
Likely not, at least to start with. And the problem is that when Carroll doesn't play regularly, he loses his match fitness and increased mobility. If that happens, he becomes less of a threat—and therefore a weapon or alternative option—when coming off the bench, or when started for one-off matches.
Tactics and Style
The seasoned argument for letting Carroll go is that he does not fit in with Brendan Rodgers' preferred style of play, being neither a hugely technical passer of the ball nor a pacey, direct striker on the ground. That is all well and good, but even the most blinkered of fans could not deny that Liverpool have hardly been the free-flowing side that was anticipated at the start of the season of late.
The Reds have at times shown scintillating play, yes, but on other occasions look as though they are attacking without a clear plan, building without direction. This has become perhaps a part of the solution for this season rather than part of the long term plan for the Reds, until Brendan Rodgers has enough players at his disposal to play in his own method.
The at-times direct style of attacking from Liverpool has led some to yearn for the penalty-box presence of Carroll—but even with the former No. 9 in the team, it is unlikely he would be a good focal point for the attack.
Liverpool rarely look to send over high crosses into the area and the midfield runners have been restricted in their penalty area movement, meaning the way he links up with the likes of Kevin Nolan at West Ham would not be replicated at Anfield.
Depreciating Value of Assets
With no permanent buyer found in time for Andy Carroll last year, the Reds ended up sending him on a year-long loan to West Ham. While there was a possibility that a deal was put in place to include an end-of-year permanent deal for a fixed fee, the amount of speculation appears to suggest that there is no obligation on West Ham's part to complete the signing.
As such, the player's book value has depreciated significantly this season.
Taking into account Carroll having a contract with Liverpool up until the end of 2015-16 season, and the fact he cost the club £35 million to sign initially, it has effectively cost the Reds more than £6 million to lend him to West Ham, due to amortisation occurring during the year.
Come this summer, the remaining book value of Carroll to the Reds in accounting terms will be £19.1 million, with them having written off £15.9 million of his initial transfer fee so far.
To put this into more stark terms, Carroll has cost the club around £275,000 per competitive Liverpool appearance so far—or £1.45 million per goal.
Financial mismanagement has, for far too long, hindered the club's prospects of competing on a more regular basis for the biggest trophies and this deal never looked like it would have a happy ending, despite the potential that Carroll had as a striker; the initial fee was simply too high. Liverpool need to sell him permanently to try and clear as much of the remaining debt on his transfer as possible, and draw a line under this deal.
Keeping him for another season would not add anything to his book value, and only would increase his transfer value if he had a barnstorming season for the Reds—unlikely for the reasons as detailed above.
Loaning him out for another campaign would be disastrous for both reasons, accounting and football.
Speculate to Accumulate, but Initial Funds Required
Liverpool need to invest in their playing squad this summer in a variety of positions, and it is as yet unclear what kind of net spend will be allowed for Brendan Rodgers.
The Reds should be able to look into the market this year and acquire a certain amount of quality which will help them strive for the top-four places next year, but the real money will come from player sales which could fetch in as much as £30 or £40 million this summer.
Andy Carroll will doubtless be the most expensive sale if a permanent buyer can be found and a deal struck which at least benefits the club to a reasonable amount. That money can then be re-invested into the team, and if the Reds can recoup around £14 million or so—though they will hope for a little more—then there are several names who will be within reach for the same amount or less, yet will bring far more to a Rodgers' team and tactical plan.
The key for Liverpool this summer is to choose extremely wisely in the transfer market; quite simply, Rodgers and his team have to get it right in this window. If they do so, the top four should be within sight by the time the Easter fixtures roll around in 2014. If not, that particular dream might be gone even before the busy Christmas period is over and done with.