Liverpool legends question Daniel Sturridge's future at the club
Liverpool legends Phil Thompson and John Aldridge believe striker Daniel Sturridge is fighting to save his career at Anfield.
Sturridge has started just SEVEN Premier League games in 2015 and after a brief return to first team action last month, he is back in the treatment room again with a knee problem.
His stunning goals-per-game ratio meant that Brendan Rodgers was prepared to be patient with Sturridge as Liverpool’s medical staff looked into a variety of ways of getting the 26-year-old on the pitch consistently.
Yet all attempts appear to be failing, with Thompson among those suspecting Anfield chiefs and the club’s new manager Jurgen Klopp may soon be forced to look for alternative striking options.
“We are getting to the point where Liverpool may have to look for an upgrade on Daniel Sturridge,” stated former Reds defender Thompson.
“The lad is a class player and his goals per game ratio is fantastic, but he has to be on the pitch more and the simple reality is that you cannot wait forever for him to be fit.
“Knowing the way the club works on the ‘Moneyball’ set up they have to assess how players are performing, they will look at the return they are getting on their investment in Sturridge and will probably say it is not worth it.
“Sometimes you have to take a gamble as a football club and say a player is not right for us and we will look for someone else.
“The lad needs to be on the field a lot more than he is if he is to be useful to Liverpool, that’s the reality.
“We see how important he can be to the team when he is on the field. The trouble is, he has hardly played any games in the last two seasons.”
If the now departed Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is following the progress of his former club from afar, he will be empathising with his successor Klopp.
While it is hard to ignore the qualities of a striker who has scored a stunning 37 goals in 57 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, his time in the treatment room has been equally telling for all the wrong reasons.
The Anfield giants have played 102 Premier League fixtures since Sturridge arrived from Chelsea on January 2nd 2013 and he has played in just 45 per cent of those fixtures.
How long can the wait for Sturridge continue? It is a question Klopp and his Anfield transfer allies need to consider before they plot their moves for fresh talent in the next two transfer windows.
Sunday World columnist John Aldridge wonders whether Sturridge’s reluctance to play when he is carrying a knock is a factor in his enduring absence, as he hints the forward needs to play through the pain barrier to confirm his commitment to the cause.
“Can we rely on Sturridge when he appears to be permanently injured,” asked Aldo.
“We all saw the class he’s got when he returned to the team for the Aston Villa game and scored a couple of great goals, but that was a brief glimpse of what we are missing.
“We have been waiting far too long for Sturridge to come back to form and fitness and you get to the point where you wonder if he will ever be fit for an extended period.
“Maybe Daniel is the type of lad that doesn’t want to take a risk when he has a niggle or a slight injury, but that is not good enough any more.
“You need your best players on the pitch and Daniel Sturridge is being paid a massive amount of money do score goals for Liverpool. If he can’t do that, Klopp will have a problem.
“I’m not saying Liverpool should move on without Sturridge, but it is clear that we cannot rely on him at this stage, so the club will need to look at other options for a reliable source of goals.”
As the highest paid player on the Liverpool books, Sturridge was viewed as the striker who could emerge as the talisman of the team following Luis Suarez’s departure to Barcelona in the summer of 2014.
Yet Sturridge has barely played since Suarez flew from the Anfield nest and Rodgers is among those who have paid a price for that absence.
Suggestions have been floated questioning whether Sturridge has an underlying problem that means he cannot play for more than a few weeks without breaking down, with Klopp stating publicly for now that he is happy to wait for the striker to recover.
“I have to trust Daniel and when he tells me he is ready to play, then we will be pleased to have him,” says the Liverpool boss.
“If the medics and physiotherapists tell me it is not possible, then it is not possible. I don't have to discuss it, just think about another solution.
“When you have suffered the kind of injuries Daniel has had in the last period of time, you cannot take too many risks and that is why we decided not to play him at Tottenham last weekend or in the Europa League game [against Rubin Kazan on Thursday night].
“We will have him back when he is ready and hopefully that time is not so long away. We are confident Daniel will be back soon.”
Sturridge was one of the few successful signings of the Rodgers era and as long as the manager who invested his reputation in signing the striker was in place, his Anfield future was secure.
With Rodgers gone, Sturridge may soon be cast by the new eyes assessing him as a liability blocking up the Liverpool wage bill.
BEST LIVERPOOL GOALS PER GAME RATIO (league matches)
1. Daniel Sturridge 0.65 per game.
2. Fernando Torres 0.64 per game.
3. Luis Suarez 0.63 per game.
4. John Aldridge 0.60