Daniel Sturridge. He’s one of those players that splits opinions amongst Liverpool fans.
Eighteen months ago, I called for Liverpool to sell him. I was fed up of his constant injuries, being paid big money to sit at home and incessantly hoping that he can play a game once every three months for Liverpool.
Before criticising me on the above comment, remember that Steven Gerrard wrote in his last autobiograph, before a game against Manchester United both him and Jamie Carragher had to beg Sturridge to play despite the player not feeling 100%. If my memory serves me right, that particular game Sturridge scored two goals and Liverpool ran out convincing winners against their north-west rivals.
Last season, Sturridge spent most of his time injured and the games he was fit for in the league he started 8 games out of the 20 he was involved in. In the other games, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi were all preferred to him in Liverpool’s front three.
In the 2015/2016 season Sturridge started 10 of the 14 games he was available for. 18 starts out of 34 games is simply not good enough for a player who, if injury free, has the ability to be Liverpool’s saviour.
Sturridge has a massive decision to make this season. With 2 years left on his Liverpool contract, it is clear he is not going to be starting too many games in the league unless Liverpool are hit by their usual injury crisis midway through the season. And with Jurgen Klopp already signing Mohammad Salah, Sturridge has fallen further down the pecking order at Liverpool.
Like Danny Ings, Sturridge has spent the summer getting fit so that this pre-season he will be at his absolute best. Many of the clubs in the Premier League would love a fit Sturridge in their squad and he knows this.
While Klopp may be reluctant to sell the Englishman, he may have his hand forced.
With England competing in the World Cup next summer, Sturridge will be looking to play as much as he can next season to prove to Gareth Southgate that he can be a big player for England in Russia.
West Ham have been linked with Sturridge since last summer and I think it is time that they act upon their interest in him. Sturridge needs to be playing in a system that suits his strengths, and at Liverpool that is not going to happen.
Klopp does not rely on one player, but on the whole team to act as one when it comes to attacking and defending. In the 18 months or so that Klopp has being in charge at Liverpool, Sturridge has shown that, at times, he can’t fit in to this system.
Yes, he is a goal scorer; there is no denying that he’s one of the best around at putting footballs into football nets. But at 27 Sturridge’s best years are meant to be ahead of him.
He’s played at the very top, winning trophies with Manchester City and Chelsea, and these past experiences should make him one of Liverpool’s leaders. but he is not. Emre Can is more of a leader on the pitch than Sturridge and Can is 5 years his junior.
Klopp will give Sturridge all the time in the world this summer to prove himself, and if Sturridge is willing to stay at Liverpool and is happy knowing that he is fourth in the Liverpool pecking order, having him on the bench would be a massive boost for the club.
Klopp will do all he can to keep Sturridge at Anfield, but if Sturridge is not going to be happy being a bit part player then he, like Sakho and others in the Liverpool team, has to go.
Liverpool have arguably their biggest season to date coming up next season. They are 2 games away from the Champions League, have a squad that just needs tweaking in one of three positions and need all the depth they can have, but if they have unhappy players in the squad, this could derail the best laid plans.
The decision is now Sturridge’s to make. Does he stay and wind down his contract or does he force a move out of Liverpool? If he does leave Liverpool, as a fan I would hate to see my team face a fully fit Sturridge. But Sturridge could very easily replace any one of the Liverpool front three if he manages to stay fit and play more than the measly 34 games he’s played over the last 2 seasons.