COMMENT: For Theo Walcott, this is it. The career. The reputation. The legacy. It's now officially at a crossroads.
This summer, no matter what he does, whatever decision - or non-decision - he makes, will be the most decisive few months in his career. And the nudge from Roy Hodgson could be the greatest intervention Walcott has ever received. Better than any bit of advice from Arsene Wenger or the Arsenal staff at London Colney.
Being blanked by England for the Euros is bad enough. But seeing the red carpet rolled out for his Gunners teammate Jack Wilshere, with the midfielder only last week getting a first start for the season, has to shake Walcott out of his career lethargy.
The game is threatening to pass him by. Next season, he turns 28. And if it's another campaign of underachievement, then it'll be official: Theo Walcott will have gone from a 'what could be' to a 'could have been' - and with no way back.
He needs to get out. And this is the summer to do it. At 27, Walcott still enjoys a decent standing in the game. But dither and wait twelve months? He then becomes a player at 28 years of age about to turn 29. Managers will look at him differently. As will fans - especially if next season is the same as the one just gone.
Wenger doesn't want to lose him. And after a decade, it will be agonising for Walcott to make a change. But better to do it on his terms, now, than be pushed out in two years' time. Brace yourselves, Walcott has actually spent more time at Arsenal than either Ian Wright or Thierry Henry. Yes, that's right. You can hardly say those 10 years have cemented Walcott as an icon, let alone have him sit alongside names like Wright and Henry.
But the cachet remains. That promise. That potential. Even at 27. It's still attractive to managers.
If he's no soccer snob, Walcott could possibly see himself thriving at the Foxes. Playing centrally, off the shoulder of the last defender, just as Jamie Vardy has done, Claudio Ranieri's system appears tailor-made for Walcott's qualities.
But the one club that is the best bet for Walcott must be West Ham.
The Hammers have also been mentioned in recent days. But news out of the Walcott camp is that he's not so interested. Why?!
The move to Stratford is obviously appealing. But it's what is happening behind the scenes which should really turn Walcott's head.
Jean-Michel Aulas, the Lyon president, has just confirmed rejecting a €31 million offer from the Irons for Alexandre Lacazette. Yes, Gooners, it's the two Davids who have bid big for Lacazette, not Wenger. Eddie Howe admitted last week Bournemouth had turned down West Ham's bid for Callum Wilson and Matt Ritchie. And there's talk of an offer being prepared for Christian Benteke at Liverpool. Oh, and just to show it's not all one way, David Sullivan revealed last week they'd rejected an offer from Tottenham for Cheikhou Kouyate.
They're building something at West Ham. It's a club on the rise. A club a player can build (or restore) a reputation with. They've sold out Stratford for next season. Sold it out! Is there really any extra pull now between playing at the Emirates or at the Olympic stadium?
But the clincher has to be the emotion; the mentality; for a player swapping an environment of perennial underachievement to one of aspiration and overachievement. It would be like night and day.
How much of a factor has that played in Dimitri Payet's success this season? To get out of a flagging Olympique Marseille, where the locker room has been harangued by pundits and fans for failing to meet expectations, to a Hammers dressing room where every achievement is something new and celebrated. Payet has performed this term with the energy and emotion of a player released from a heavy burden.
And for Walcott, West Ham can do the same. But he can't hang around. If it's to be done, it must be this summer. In 12 months' time, West Ham could be too big for him. Like England, they'll have passed him by.