Go back to this point last year—the Reds would have been lucky if they could have got a couple of million pounds for the winger. However, Brendan Rodgers seemingly pushed the right buttons with Downing last season, as he recorded three goals and five assists. Although the totals might not seem like much, they're a far cry from how poor the player was in his first season with the club.
Downing isn't considered unexpendable, though, and the Daily Mail's Charlie Skillen is reporting West Ham are targeting the player for a summer move:
West Ham are lining up a bid for Liverpool winger Stewart Downing as Sam Allardyce looks to rebuild his Hammers side.
Downing would become the east London club's second arrival from Anfield this summer after Andy Carroll completed a £15million deal to make his stay at Upton Park permanent.
Allardyce believes the two work well together, with Carroll aiming to thrive on the former Aston Villa winger's service. In fact, the manager first enquired about the 28-year-old at the end of last season and have since firmed up their interest.
You can certainly see why Sam Allardyce would want to buy Downing. Linking him up with Andy Carroll worked wonders for the Liverpool attack in 2011/12. In order to fully maximize their partnership, Allardyce needs to go with the Kenny Dalglish technique of subbing one off for the other.
Downing did well last year, but his value is likely never going to be any higher than it is right now. He had a good enough year that somewhat erased the flop label he received after moving from Aston Villa.
The problem is, he is not going to get much better than he was last season. This isn't a player who's magically going to score 10 goals and add 15 assists per season. We've seen the ceiling for Downing at Liverpool, and it isn't all that high.
If the club can get £5-10 million for him, that's the best it can hope for at this point. It would go toward replenishing the war chest, while also getting Downing's wages off the books. One of the biggest issues for the club is that there have been players on ridiculous weekly wages. Through no fault of the player, Downing has been a part of that. Getting rid of him will help to ease the financial burden.
Selling Downing would give Rodgers a lot more flexibility with his team selection.
He's got a lot of players capable of playing out wide, like Iago Aspas, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, who are more natural in central positions. You can only put so many players in the center of the pitch, so without Downing, you could have an easier time trying to fit everyone on the pitch at once.
Then there's promising young wingers like Suso, Luis Alberto and Raheem Sterling who need to get a sustained run in the team. They've been biding their time on the bench, and now they're ready to handle starting duties more often.
Selling Downing would continue what has been a very good summer for Liverpool. You've got the additions of Alberto, Aspas, Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet to go along with the departures of Jonjo Shelvey, Andy Carroll and Danny Wilson. All of those moves are taking the club forward.
Getting back into the top four has long been the goal, but the Reds' actions in the summer have often left supporters thinking it was an unrealistic goal. This summer is different, though. Liverpool are finishing off their business early in the summer and are bringing in talented players for reasonable fees.
Throw that in with the progress made under Rodgers in the second half of the season, and you've got a club that could be a threat for the top four next season.