West Ham’s signing of French winger Dimitri Payet has formed the foundation for speculation purporting the end of Stewart Downing’s tenure at Upton Park.
Frequently linked with a return to his native north east, both Newcastle – managed by the man who gave the England international his professional debut, Steve McClaren – and Sunderland are thought to have candles burning for the soon-to-be 31-year-old.
Both Premier League outfits, however, look set to lose out on Downing’s services to his hometown club Middlesbrough, or at least that’s what the betting indicates.
It’s just 2/5 the beaten Championship play-off finalists add the 35-cap winger to their ranks before September 4th, with his links to club chairman Steve Gibson thought to have given Boro an advantage over their top-tier rivals.
A lofty 3/1 says he remains with the east London faction who currently pay his wages, while 5/1 is on offer about him embarking upon a return to Sunderland, where he enjoyed a successful loan spell in 2003/04.
Next come Newcastle, who are almost not worthy of consideration in this market at 11/1.
If Aitor Karanka’s charges can successfully fend off higher-profile interest from elsewhere to land Downing, they’d be re-signing one of the most creative English midfield practitioners currently in operation.
His performances at the tip of West Ham’s diamond were integral to the early-season success the Irons revelled in under Sam Allardyce last time around and were of sufficient class to earn him an international recall.
A combination of the six league goals scored and eight assisted means, as the more sagacious mathematicians reading will have already deduced, Downing was directly responsibility for the net bulging on 14 occasions last term.
It’s an amount only Jordan Henderson can best among his fellow England midfielders, while, of those with identical nationality, only the Liverpool skipper-to-be and Leighton Baines set up more teammates.
In terms of key passes made per match, just four Premier League players boast a higher average than Downing’s 2.3; Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Mesut Ozil.
Baines is the only compatriot who can rival the Teesside native in this respect.
These stats are indicative of the fact that Downing remains a leading conjuring force in the Premier League and if Middlesbrough were to lure him back to the Riverside, their prospects of promotion from the second tier will be emphatically enhanced.