Following his revival in the latter stages of last season, it seemed Andy Carroll had put paid to rumours regarding his future as a Liverpool player with a string of performances suggesting he had finally found his feet at Anfield.
Carroll had long endured speculation that his days on Merseyside were numbered after failing to leave a lasting impression at the club he had joined for a record £35 million from Newcastle in January 2011.
The 23-year-old had scored only seven goals in his first year as a Liverpool player and, such had his failings been over the 12 months previous, the Reds hierarchy attempted to cut their losses by shipping Carroll out during the transfer window.
Liverpool were unable to achieve the outcome they had hoped for - trading Carroll for wantaway Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez - and the beleaguered Geordie took his place on Kenny Dalglish's peripheries once more.
Yet something sparked in the seemingly vacant cranium of Carroll as the season reached its conclusion, with his almost match saving performance in the FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea the zenith in a brief Reds career.
It was enough to convince Roy Hodgson to award Carroll a place among England's 23-man squad for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine, and the lank-haired forward's neck-busting header was a highlight in a campaign of lowlights.
Pessimism has been replaced by optimism regarding Carroll's potential, yet he will return to Liverpool for pre-season training still unsure of his position at Anfield, given the change of management.
Brendan Rodgers is the man in possession of the Red reins these days and, on paper, the Northern Irishman's strengths do not suggest he has the ambition, or ability, to extract the best from Carroll.
At 6ft4in, Carroll hardly fits the mould for Rodgers, who rode to Merseyside on a wave of praise for the way he had achieved relative success with Swansea by keeping the ball on the ground.
Finding Carroll's feet is always a risky strategy and it is difficult to comprehend that he possesses the required skills set to execute the on-field plans of his new manager.
But how can Liverpool solve a problem like Carroll? Sell him on, and the Reds can expect to make a significant loss, but keep him on the bench and his value plummets even more so.
Perhaps, then, it would be advisable to explore the option of allowing Carroll to leave the club on loan for a season which, reports the Daily Mail, is a possibility given the interest of AC Milan.
The Rossoneri, it is claimed, were particularly impressed by Carroll's displays for England at Euro 2012, and are interested in acquiring his services, albeit on a temporary basis to begin with.
It is almost unfathomable to think that a club with a higher European standing than Milan would be interested in Carroll at this present time, and a season at the San Siro could be an outcome to suit all parties.
Former England striker Mark Hateley has already expressed his hope that Carroll joins Milan, having benefited himself from a move to Italy during the early part of his career.
“It would be breath of fresh air for Andy Carroll,” Hateley told talkSPORT.
“It would be great to go away and test himself in a new environment, a new culture and a different way of living.
“That was key for my development when I was so young. I played under a young Fabio Capello at Milan. They teach you the game inside and out, that’s what they do in these countries, especially Italy.
“Big strikers have always been a handful. It would be great for Andy and, when he’s taken all that on board, it’ll be great for England."
Great for England, certainly, should all go to plan in Milan, although it will take longer for Liverpool to have any reward to show for Carroll's hypothetical efforts in Italy.
But, should Carroll return to Liverpool after a season of success with Milan, then the Reds can fairly request a hefty sum for a player still yet to reach the peak in his career.
Yet Reds fans are still likely to harbour ambitions of witnessing Carroll hitting his straps as a Liverpool player, and it is not beyond comprehension that he would come back as a forward deemed too threatening to leave on the bench, regardless of the favoured philosophy of the manager.
Carroll's potential is unquestioned, but he may be unable to realise this at Liverpool during the short-term as Rodgers attempts to build a team in his own image.
But Carroll was recruited as a long-term investment, and allowing him to leave the club on loan could be vital way to extricate the potential that was deemed enough to warrant paying £35 million only 18 months ago.
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