Future? Are we talking about the same guy?
They never make it easy, do they? Right when for all the world it seemed that Downing would be shipped off in January as dead wood (remember that word from the Christian Poulsen fiasco?), he put in his best ever performance as a red in Liverpool's scintillating 4-0 slaughtering of Fulham at Anfield. That was what we payed for. Everything was on display. Good crossing from both his left and right foot, constant movement, an assured finish, and awareness in possession down the wing. He gave us width as he usually does, but this time knew what to do when the ball was at his feet. And the pass to slip in Gerrard on goal was just simply too good to properly put into words. It was the kind of ball that you would never expect a winger to make, maybe not even expect most central midfielders to make. Though it was a year and half behind schedule, it happened. And it was glorious.
This makes it a decent little run of games from Downing all of the sudden, even though it feels like it was just yesterday that he was in everyone's dog house. However, every top flight player has his moment in the sun. After what I've seen in Downing's play overall since he arrived at Anfield, I'm not yet ready to trust him. I mean this was Fulham at home. Nobody loses to Fulham at home. I assume he'll start next weekend, hopefully on the left, so the opportunity will be there to recapture my faith.
A key reason why Liverpool should keep Downing is because of the need for increased squad depth, especially at the wing position. Selling Downing just to replace him with a marginal upgrade or equal talent seems like a waste of energy in the transfer window. If he has performances like today even once a month, it would be worth keeping him rather than selling him cheaply. To be honest, I believe Downing is still capable of the occasional quality performance if Rodgers continues to set him loose against lesser sides when resting Sterling. There is value in that. Because we've struggled against these "lesser sides" a lot over the past couple years. Having another experienced option for Rodgers to go to is also important, and if this is more than a mirage, then Downing could go from valuable to essential for the squad.
But then again, we are still talking about Stewart Downing. The glimpse of quality that we're witnessing can also be used to justify the sale of the winger. With another good outing, I reckon Downing's value will have almost doubled what it was last month. This might be the highest we can ever sell Downing for. If a team comes knocking with checkbook in hand, then as the well known song goes, we might do well to "take the money and run". I mean getting 70K a week off our hands would be nice. And forgetting that choking hazard of a transfer fee would be pleasant too.
Brendan Rodgers seems to be backtracking on the matter today, after allegedly telling Downing to start packing his bags. Espnsoccernet quoted the manger as contradicting himself by saying, "I want him to be a part of the group here but at his age, we talked about him playing regularly and if the opportunity had come for him to go then him and I would look at it," and then, "I always have wanted him to stay". So Rodgers told Downing that he might get sold soon but he always wanted him to stay? I'm not buying that.
So anyways, comment on your opinions. Right now I'm leaning toward keeping Downing but that can be easily be undone next weekend.