Speculation is mounting over where Andy Carroll will be playing football next season when the Liverpool striker's loan deal with West Ham expires.
Here, we round up the speculation and rumour concerning the centre-forward's next move...
Carroll joined West Ham on a season-long loan deal but his time at Upton Park has been seriously hampered by injury. The nine-time capped England striker has made 20 appearances in the Premier League and scored six goals for the Hammers. West Ham have an option to buy Carroll, with the fee reportedly £17m as well as wages of £90,000-a-week. However, manager Sam Allardyce warned this week that the introduction of Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules could "blow the whole deal in one go", adding: "Financially you are restricted to be able to do it. So in one fell swoop the financial restrictions mean Andy Carroll can't sign for us from Liverpool because it's too expensive, even if he wanted to. Somebody will have a bigger budget than us somewhere. I might not be able to afford Andy Carroll, full stop, even if I wanted him, even if the chairmen wanted him, even if we all wanted him, which we do, it will not be allowed to happen."
Could that "somebody" that Allardyce talks about be Carroll's former club Newcastle? When he switched to Anfield for £35m, the striker made clear that he had no desire to leave St James' Park - which has led to an assumption he would welcome a return to the north-east. According to reports, Newcastle will open the bidding this summer at £7m for the Gateshead-born striker, although that falls some way short of Liverpool's valuation of £15m. Having sold Demba Ba to Chelsea in January, without finding a replacement, there is no doubt that manager Alan Pardew will be in the market for a new forward to alleviate the burden currently being put on Papiss Cisse's shoulders.
Spurs are another club reportedly showing signs of interest. With the only out-and-out strikers at the club being the injury troubled Jermain Defoe and the frustrating Emmanuel Adebayor, it's thought Tottenham will look to sign a striker during the summer. Again, they value Carroll far below what Liverpool will be asking for - however, chairman Daniel Levy has proved himself an astute mover in the transfer market in the past and a cut price deal cannot be ruled out.
Brendan Rodgers made it immediately clear after his arrival at Anfield last summer that Carroll was not the kind of player he wanted at the club - allowing the 24-year-old to leave despite not having a ready-made replacement lined-up. During the January transfer window, the Reds signed Daniel Sturridge, ensuring any interest in reintegrating Carroll has been almost entirely extinguished. Rodgers has said Carroll “is too expensive to be a substitute”, and that feeling is understood to remain. But will Liverpool allow him to leave if their valuation isn't met? It's a question that's sure to dominate the summer transfer speculation.
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