Brendan Rodgers has challenged Andy Carroll to prove he can fit into a new Liverpool system or risk being sent out on loan next season.
Rodgers, as revealed by Telegraph Sport last week, is expected to make Roma’s Fabio Borini one of his first signings, said he not had any approaches for Carroll on a temporary basis.
But while he is willing to give the England international a chance to show he can adapt to a new style of play, there are serious doubts about his ability to do so given the type of player he is.
Having built Swansea into a free-flowing, short passing side during his time in Wales, hopes are high Rodgers will fashion Liverpool into an equally stylish outfit. For many it is hard to see how Carroll, the club’s £35m record signing, will fit into that system.
Rodgers’ football philosophy has more in common with the Spanish side which won the European Championships without playing a recognised centre-forward, let alone one in the style of a traditional English target man.
There are some in this country who feel players of Carroll’s ilk have been missed, yet the suspicion is a forward-thinker like Rodgers does not pine for an old-fashioned centre-forward, who is arguably always more dangerous in the air than on the ground.
Rodgers has spoken to Carroll on the phone since he returned from international duty and while there were plenty of kind words about the number nine he inherited from Kenny Dalglish, there was no firm assurance he would part of his long term plans.
“He’s no different to any player we have here, they might have all the attributes but not the mentality to play,” said Rodgers, who will start to mould a new look team on Liverpool’s pre-season tour of North America next week.
“It’s a wee bit unfair for Andy to get labelled any other way. He’s a good kid, a good lad, so we will just see how the formation of the group shapes up over the next four or five weeks.
“Andy’s a player I want to assess and speak with. We’ve already had a good chat on where we’re at.
“He’s a very good player. He’s shown that in his short career already. He did fantastic with Newcastle, he’s done well at times with England and I saw him a lot when he was in the England youth set-up.
“He’s made a massive move to a world renowned football club and there’s always going to be a time of adaptation, especially in the first six or seven months.
“You sometimes forget how young these people are. They’re not machines, they are humans. If you move from one part of the country to another, it will take time to adapt. But with the profile and pressure which is on straight away, obviously it can be very difficult.
“Time will tell for him and all the players whether they are in my plans, but my job is to assess that.
“Like every player, there are certain styles and systems they will be playing in which will allow them to flourish.”
When asked about reports AC Milan were interested in taking the 23-year-old for a season, Rodgers insisted he had not received any word from the Italians, although he did not rule out the possibility he could be allowed to leave on loan. That is bound to spark interest from other Premier League managers.
“It’s something I would have to look at, I have to be honest,” Rodgers said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I will never let anyone go on loan, then come in here in two weeks and a player’s gone, and you’re saying ‘you said you wouldn’t let them go.’
“There are many things to going on loan. Is it going to be beneficial for the club, that’s the most important thing?
“Sometimes a player going out on loan – in general, not just Andy – can benefit the club in the long term.
“It gets them game experience, and they come back a better player, a more confident one. Certainly more so than if they’ve been sitting on the bench for the majority of the season.
“Andy’s always going to be linked with clubs, whether he was here or not. I have spoken to him on his holidays, he knows exactly where he stands, but I have had no inquiries about him.”
Should Rodgers keep Carroll, it is likely he will be used as an impact substitute as he was by Roy Hodgson at the Euros, although the Scot has other priorities at the moment.
Although he denied there was “a wheelbarrow of cash” for him to spend this summer, he will look to add to the squad as well as let players leave.
“The reality is we have only made three or four enquiries about players and hopefully can close out one deal this week which will be a really exciting one for the club, one the supporters will absolutely love.”
That is likely to be the young Italian international Borini, who Rodgers worked with while he was a coach at Chelsea’a Academy and again when he took him on loan at Swansea.