Silencing his critics: but was last year's performance enough to keep Downing at Anfield?
From superfluous to superb, from winger to full-back, Stewart Downing ran the gamut under Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge at Liverpool Football Club. Much-maligned after his inaugural year in a red jersey, the £20 million signing seemed destined for the cutting room floor as Rodgers began his own tapestry, saying that the winger would have to fight for his shirt.
But he rose to his boss’ challenge of put up or get out and enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, becoming one of the Northern Irishman’s most consistent performers in the latter half of the season.
But that was last season. The question that now hangs ominously is, will he stay a Red in 2013?
If you read the rumors, the answer would appear to be “no.” In May, Darren Lewis of Mirror Football reported that Fulham FC were looking at bringing Liverpool’s No. 19 to Craven Cottage on loan. However, Liverpool were more interested in a sale if they were to get Downing off the books.
More recently, his ex-employers, Aston Villa FC, are also reportedly keen on his services and are willing to offer £6 million for them, according to Cheshire Today.
Of course, these are rumors and as such are often just so much smoke. But where there is smoke...
The simple fact is that Downing is now closing in on 30 years old. Given Rodgers’ proclivity for favoring younger players, he might be a little old for future plans. With Iago Aspas (25) and Luis Alberto (20) fresh in, and Suso (19) and Raheem Sterling (18) already blooded, the writing would well seem to be on the wall for Downing.
Then there is the ugly business of business. Transfermarkt has his value listed at €8.5 million. It is nowhere near the princely sum that Liverpool paid for him, and it is a valuation that has continued to fall, according to the site’s market value graph. There are also 70,000 reasons (his weekly wage, according to David Anderson of Mirror Football) for the Liverpool gaffer to ship him out.
Downing might still have something to offer though. A veteran presence on the flank might be a necessary option for Rodgers—if not only for the bench and until January. There might be some tread on his tires, yet.
He did manage to shake off his first season’s performance that saw him glaringly absent from the scoresheet in English Premier League fixtures. He netted three times in the most recent campaign for the Reds in the EPL and contributed two more in the UEFA Europa League. He also added five assists to that tally, which was five more than his first season with Liverpool, via ESPN FC.
However, the omelette that Downing had to break his way into last season was one more made through necessity than design. With a fresh batch of his own ingredients to choose from, Rodgers might not pull Downing off the shelf this time around, and if he does, it will more than likely be for flavorless affairs.