Liverpool Transfer Talk: 4 Possible Replacements for Stewart Downing
Despite his best efforts, Stewart Downing was never really going to be a success at Liverpool.
His £20-million arrival in the summer of 2011 came off the back of a fine season at Aston Villa, but that Villa team was set up to play in a certain way, and it certainly played to his strengths.
At Liverpool things were different, though, and the England winger struggled during a first campaign in which the Reds never really had an identity.
Downing looked as though he was going to pay the price for that when Brendan Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish as manager, but having been initially frozen out of Rodgers' plans, he deserved credit for the way he played his way back into them.
He always seemed to be on borrowed time, though, and when a £6 million offer from West Ham arrived this summer, the Reds were always likely to accept it.
But Downing was a fixture in Rodgers' side in the latter half of last season, so someone needs to replace him.
Either from within the club or outside it, who will step into the winger's shoes now?
If the Reds can see off competition from Tottenham (Daily Mirror), the exciting Brazilian Willian could become Liverpool’s major acquisition of the summer, according to Sky Sports, and if he is, then the Reds will have pulled off quite a coup.
For much of this transfer window it looked as though another ex-Shakhtar Donetsk man would be moving to Anfield, but Henrikh Mkhitaryan opted for Borussia Dortmund instead, leaving Brendan Rodgers to look elsewhere.
The departure of Downing ensured that an extra attacking option became a necessity, and with Liverpool now reportedly ready, according to ESPN, to take advantage of the financial constraints at Anzhi Makhachkala to bring Willian to Anfield, they’d be getting quite a talent.
Having left Corinthians for the Ukraine soon after he turned 19 in 2007, Willian emerged as one of the leading lights in a team which found plenty of friends due to their attacking, exciting style, which was often visible during Champions League games.
A big move to one of the main leagues in Europe seemed to beckon for the attacker, and so there was some surprise when he moved to Anzhi in January.
The money issues there have let Liverpool in this summer, and with Lucas Leiva and Philippe Coutinho both no doubt encouraging their fellow countryman to switch to Anfield, his signing would be a huge statement of intent from the Reds.
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It has disappeared to the extent that he's started the new campaign in the Ajax first team, and so whilst a move away from Amsterdam is certainly still possible this summer, perhaps it'd be more likely to see him leave in 2014, a World Cup year, on a Bosman free transfer.
Many Liverpool fans were desperate to see the club make a move for the 21-year-old during this window, but Rodgers has chosen to hold fire amidst apparent misgivings that his form wasn't quite up to what he was producing as a teenager.
He still has an awful lot to give, of course, and would be a fine signing for somebody, but Liverpool now only look likely to move for him should they be frustrated elsewhere.
Hatem Ben Arfa
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Newcastle's French maestro Hatem Ben Arfa has had his fair share of injury and subsequently fitness problems over the past couple of years, but he is undoubtedly a fine talent.
Possessing the ability both to shoot from range and dribble past opponents, Ben Arfa's array of tricks and flicks has delighted the Geordie faithful ever since his arrival from Marseille in 2010.
However the struggles of Alan Pardew's side last season and a contract wrangle have now seen Ben Arfa edge towards the exit door, with Liverpool linked with a move for him, according to Jamie Sanderson of Metro.
Question marks certainly exist over the Frenchman's work rate, and whilst a move for him would seemingly indicate that Rodgers has missed out on top target Willian, he could still be a useful addition.
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Who says that a replacement for Downing has to come from outside the club?
Whilst a big-name signing is still on the agenda for Liverpool, they mustn't lose sight of the desire to nurture their own young talents and release them into the first team, as was seen with Raheem Sterling a year ago.
Now, the impact made by Jordon Ibe towards the end of the last campaign and during preseason ahead of this one has suggested that he is the next one off the production line.
The former Wycombe Wanderers youngster, still just 17, made his Reds debut against QPR on the last day of last season and was on the bench for the win over Stoke having played a large role in preseason.
Incredibly pacy and direct, Ibe could prove invaluable for the Reds in matches in which they are looking to hit teams on the break, and the thought of him and Sterling on either wing is sure to frighten many full-backs.
He still has a long way to go, of course, but the impact he's made so far at Anfield is a hugely positive one.