LIVERPOOL -- Brendan Rodgers has hailed Andy Carroll as one of the best aerial attacking threats in Europe -- and insists the striker has nothing to prove to Liverpool.
Carroll is set to line up against his former club on Sunday for the first time since leaving Anfield for West Ham, initially on loan, in August 2012. The England forward was brought to Anfield by then-manager Kenny Dalglish in a club-record 35 million pounds deal in January 2011. But he made only two competitive substitute appearances for the Reds after Rodgers took charge in the summer of 2012.
Carroll's direct style was at odds with the possession-based game that Rodgers was keen to introduce, and he was allowed to join the Hammers on a season's loan before completing a 15 million pounds permanent move in June last year.
The 25-year-old was ineligible to play in both league fixtures against Liverpool last season, and missed the Hammers' 4-1 defeat at Anfield in December with an ankle injury. And Rodgers is wary of his former striker's threat as Liverpool bid to maintain their place at the top of the Premier League when they visit West Ham this weekend.
The Liverpool manager said: "Andy wasn't let go from here because he wasn't good enough. He is wonderful in the air, and has a good touch in and around the box. He certainly has nothing to prove to Liverpool. I think he is one of the best players in Europe in how he plays. His style of attacking the ball in the air is outstanding. When I came in here, everyone knew the way I worked. It was never to say Andy couldn't work that way, but we had other certain financial aspects of the football club we had to look at.
"He needed to play and I think he has done well for West Ham. When he has been fit he has shown he is one of the top strikers playing in that style of football West Ham play. He knows he is a very good player. West Ham paid a lot of money for him and they have identified him as a top young player. Andy wanted to play. He had spent 12 to 18 months beforehand not playing regularly, so this was a chance for him to do that. He has taken it really well."
Carroll is not the only old boy Liverpool are likely to face on Sunday, as winger Stewart Downing is also set to be in the West Ham line-up. Downing, a 20 million pounds buy from Aston Villa in 2011, was allowed to make a five million pounds move to Upton Park last July.
The England international struggled for form throughout much of his two years at Anfield, but Rodgers feels he has thrived in London.
"I didn't want to sell Stewart," Rodgers said. "It was difficult for him when I came in but then he really progressed and became an important member of our squad by the end of the season. But the money we were offered for him was going to help get other players in and continue our journey along the philosophy, and unfortunately Stewart left. He has been one of West Ham's best players this season -- if not their best."