Why Liverpool owners are made to look like mugs by Newcastle's canny Ashley
Mike Ashley must laughing his head off right now.
Barely 18 months after selling Andy Carroll to the Reds for a record £35 million, a cheeky first approach about a loan has opened the door to the Geordie hero returning for less than half the fee they sold him for.
Make no mistake, Newcastle's enquiry over the weekend was made more for Carroll's benefit than Liverpool's. The striker now knows he's wanted back at St James' Park and has already made it clear to Reds chiefs he wants the move to happen.
With Fabio Borini now signed, Liverpool are being painted into a black and white corner. They can't afford to have Carroll sitting in the stands and while West Ham United and Fulham have made contact, they can't meet his asking price and the striker isn't interested in moving south. He wants to be back on Tyneside.
Liverpool are seeking £20 million, but the good money is on Carroll returning home for around £17 million. And with Newcastle having already banked the £35 million Liverpool paid for him in January 2011, Toon owner Ashley surely can't believe his luck.
His managing director, Derek Llambias, happily took the mick out of Liverpool while discussing with fans last season Carroll's original sale:
"It is about control.
"We had the control. We knew the Torres deal was there.
"We drew that f****** deal, perhaps the ultimate.
"So £30m? F*** off! Don't waste my time and I slammed the phone down.
"£35m? Everybody including Pardew [manager Alan Pardew] all agreed.
"But the £35m they wanted to pay over four years. It was rubbish. Mike (Ashley) said - and he is a brave boy Mike I promise you - get all the £35m up front.
"We got it all up front and then they never paid us on time and we charged them 12 grand f****** interest."
That's right - the money's already banked. Toon stand to make a clear £18 million profit on a player who came through their youth system. Barcelona president Sandro Rosell must be looking on with envy!
Even if Demba Ba was to cash in his chips and leave this month for his £7.5 million buyout clause, it's difficult to see Toon management losing much sleep. Carroll, who actually finished last season in better fashion than the Senegalese, would step in as direct replacement - giving Ashley and Llambias a stunning £25.5 million profit over the course of the two transfers.
It'll be the biggest day at St James' Park since Kevin Keegan welcomed Alan Shearer and throw down the gauntlet to those clubs around Newcastle - including Liverpool - that they're here to stay.
But before anything is rubberstamped, it's hoped Carroll gives new Reds manager Brendan Rodgers a piece of his mind.
Rodgers has enjoyed good press since his appointment. He really hasn't put a foot wrong. But Carroll has every right to feel he's been sold out by his manager. It's only weeks ago that we were all arguing Carroll was the more exciting, energetic option for England in attack than Manchester United's Wayne Rooney.
It seems too easy for Rodgers' supporters to argue Carroll's style of game doesn't fit. Good managers can work with good players. End of.
Pushing a motivated Carroll out of Anfield, with a point to prove, into the hands of a direct rival could be the first big mistake Rodgers makes as Liverpool manager.