By Jamie Jackson and Stuart James
Brendan Rodgers has warned Stewart Downing that the winger may have to convert to left-back to have any future at Liverpool, as the new manager continues to dismantle Kenny Dalglish’s project.
Last summer Dalglish paid £20m for Downing, who has 34 England caps as an attacking wideman, with the 28-year-old a member of Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad.
Rodgers succeeded Dalglish in June and Downing becomes the latest player signed by the Scot to find his future at Anfield uncertain under the Northern Irishman.
Rodgers has indicated that Andy Carroll, also bought by Dalglish for a record £35m last summer, might be sold if a suitable offer is made.
The England striker did not start either of Liverpool’s opening two league games of the season.
While Charlie Adam, another Dalglish signing – last July for £9m – may also be sold, Rodgers said of Dowining: “I think it is a big possibility that he can play there. If you look at the modern-day full-backs, [Jordi] Alba [Spain left-back], [Chelsea’s] Ashley Cole – Ashley Cole was a centre-forward. When I bring young players through, I will always bring attackers because they can move back. When Middlesbrough reached the Uefa Cup final against Sevilla, he played left-back on that run. Sometimes it can release the pressure on players. His job at the top end of the pitch is to create and score goals. But you looked at him in the half-hour against Hearts [last Thursday], he served the ball well, he got forward and defended a couple of times. That is important.”
Liverpool’s first-choice left-back is currently José Enrique, who Dalglish paid £5m for last August. But Rodgers believes Downing has the ability to play in the position.
“I think he is good enough for that. Absolutely,” he said. “Time will tell [whether he can do it consistently]. I don’t like to just give up on players. I always look at different ways you can play them. Stewart has a future as an attacking player but I have had a good chat with him on the role and he is excited about it. That is the biggest thing.
“There is no point putting a player into a position he doesn’t want to play. But when you speak to someone and tell them what the future could be, along with the qualities that he has, there is no doubt that in the modern game, he could play that role.”
Downing’s team-mate, Jay Spearing, is weighing up his options after Wolves and Aston Villa became the latest clubs to express interest in signing the Liverpool midfielder.
Bolton Wanderers have been tracking Spearing for some time and were confident of landing the player, but reports that he has agreed a £3m move to the Reebok Stadium are premature.
It is understood that Spearing has yet to make up his mind about his preferred destination and that his preference would be to go on a season-long loan rather than sign a permanent deal and sever ties with Liverpool.
Spearing has two years left on his contract at Liverpool and although it is difficult to see him breaking through at Anfield in the near future, he has not given up hope.
The situation has become more complicated in the last 48 hours because of fresh interest in the player from at least three other clubs.
Villa have made an inquiry and asked to be kept informed of developments, while Wolves have been more persistent in their attempts to bring Spearing to Molineux.