According to his current manager Sam Allardyce, Andy Carroll’s next move will be career-defining. And he is absolutely right.
The Liverpool forward currently on loan at West Ham has a big decision to make: either he wants to be a player or a battering ram.
Should he wish to be the former, than he needs to hope an attractive offer or two arrive at Anfield this summer, because Brendan Rodgers appeared to have made his mind up about the 24-year-old before he even took charge.
But should he wish to be a battering ram – than Upton Park will no doubt welcome him back with open arms (and a mouth guard).
Reports earlier this month suggested Carroll may have a future at the Reds, if only as an impact substitute, but it seems highly unlikely the player will settle for that.
Instead it is almost certain he will seek a permanent new home. And while he is clearly rated by Allardyce, the manager spoke last week of the possibility of financial fair play scuppering any possible deal before it is even discussed.
Much has been written of Carroll’s performance against Manchester United; most of it centring on his aerial challenge/assault (delete as applicable) on David De Gea.
But it was his whole 90 minutes that pointed to a man being used in all the wrong ways by a manager who loves that sort of thing.
During Allardyce’s time at Bolton, it was Kevin Davies who did the dirty work. But there was more to Davies, too; a deftness of touch and goal-scoring ability that Carroll surpassed during his excellent spell at Newcastle United.
Whether it was a spell that warranted a transfer of £35million is an argument for another day. But the truth is Carroll used to be a very good footballer. At least he appeared to be.
In his breakout year for the Magpies he scored 19 goals including 17 in the Championship. And seemingly proving he was more than a second-tier striker, he bagged 11 goals in the Premier League before his January move to Liverpool.
But in more than two years since that move, Carroll has scored just 12 times; which makes a mooted return to St James’ Park an attractive option for both the club and the player.
So Allardyce hit the nail on the head when he called the players next move a crucial one. It may well determine how we remember him.
Carroll used to be a very good player. Now he appears to be a very good tactic.
Soon he will have to decide which of the two he prefers.
Which club should Carroll join next season? And how will he ultimately be remembered as a player?
image: © dannymol