Liverpool striker Andy Carroll is facing an uncertain future at Anfield after Brendan Rodgers intimated in his latest press conference that the club has started contacting interested parties about the possibility of taking the £35million man on a season-long loan deal.
The 23-year-old is keen to remain on Merseyside and fight for his place in the first-team, and the recently appointed Reds boss indicated that he would give the England international time to prove he can fit into his plans.
Rodgers is a disciple of the 4-3-3 formation, and having enjoyed a successful season with Swansea City using that system, it is anticipated that the Northern Irish tactician will look to integrate a similar set-up during his debut campaign with his new club.
Liverpool have been credited with an interest in a number of forwards that would be more suited to Rodgers' revised approach, and are believed to be closing in on an £11million deal to sign Roma striker Fabio Borini - a player that the manager knows well having coached him during his time at Chelsea and Swansea.
Such speculation has raised further question marks over the long-term future of Carroll, and sending him out on loan is an option that Rodgers "would have to look at" for a player whose strengths seem completely at odds with his preferred style of play.
When Liverpool paid Newcastle United a British transfer record fee to sign Carroll in January 2011, everyone on Merseyside had high hopes for the Reds' new No.9. But, a combination of injuries and poor form has denied them the sort of return that was initially expected, and even though his late end of season form, and flashes of promise at Euro 2012 provided some reason for renewed optimism, the general consensus is one of disappointment.
So, what are Carroll's options? Tottenham Hotspur's reported interest has subsided following the departure of Harry Redknapp last month, while newly-appointed Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has turned his attention to securing the permanent transfer of Emmanuel Adebayor, who could be unveiled at White Hart Lane before the end of the week, providing he agrees his severance package with current club Manchester City.
Last week, Serie A giants AC Milan also emerged as surprise admirers of Carroll, with the players name coming up when the Italian club spoke to Liverpool about midfielder Alberto Aquilani's return to Merseyside following a year at the San Siro.
The son of Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, Pier Silvio, recently spoke to The Sun about his admiration for the England star's impressive performances at the European Championships this summer, saying: "This is a new era for Milan.
"We will continue to get younger while maintaining the culture. Milan still has its superstars but I'd like to have Carroll at Milan. I was impressed with his strength and his headed goal against Sweden."
A move to Italy remains unlikely, though, with Carroll expected to retain home comforts and stay in the Premier League, where he will not be short of options.
Newly-promoted West Ham United have been credited with an interest in acquiring his services, and may look to utilise club captain Kevin Nolan - a close friend of Carroll's following their time together at Newcastle - as a bargaining tool to entice him to Upton Park for 2012-13.
Hammers boss Sam Allardyce also shares the same agent as Carroll, which could also work favourably as the East London club step up their attempts to land a marquee signing ahead of their season opener against Aston Villa on August 18.
A return to Tyneside has also been mooted, with Demba Ba's Magpies future still anything but certain. Alan Pardew may consider bringing the former Toon favourite back to St James' Park on a short-term deal. However, Liverpool may be reluctant to do business with a close domestic rival, for risk of strengthening a potential competitor in the higher echelons of the Premier League next season.
The final option that has not been considered by many, is a move to west London with Fulham. Liverpool's reported interest in signing the Cottagers' USA international Clint Dempsey could result in Carroll being offered in exchange to sweeten the deal.
Martin Jol is short on attacking options having lost out to Reading in the signing of last season's loanee Pavel Pogrebnyak, and also released Andy Johnson. Losing Dempsey would leave Fulham extra-light, so Carroll could come in to address that problem, either on a temporary or permanent basis.
Carroll will not command anything like the same fee that Liverpool paid to sign him, whether they look to sell him now or next summer. But, a successful loan spell away from Anfield this season will at least increase his current market value.
A bit-part role is the last thing that the striker needs if he is to rebuild his reputation, and having broken back into the England fold under Roy Hodgson, needs to be playing regular first-team football to continue on the road to restoration.
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