The striker has been a huge question mark at Liverpool ever since Luis Suarez broke their partnership and injuries prevented his climb to the pedestal as the club’s main man upfront. It seems the mission of his career so far has been to continuously break the hearts of those whose hope and trust in him never wavers, however damning his injury record may be.
The general consensus among us is that there’s a top player somewhere in that No. 15 shirt. His ability to take the ball inside or around the box and whack it into the net has never been in question. To state the obvious, the trouble with him has always been that the player tasked with being the main goal provider simply can’t be missing 50% of games every season, not if the team is to achieve any success.
Liverpool fortunately do not need him to be that main man anymore. They needed him badly back in the day when all they had were Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini to try and bag a few goals, but not so now. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have struck up such levels of cooperation that it’s practically impossible to even consider breaking into the front line, for Sturridge or anyone else.
What Jurgen Klopp needs at this point is a reliable backup, someone who will ensure that having one of the three miss a game or two doesn’t turn into a proper struggle for goals. Does Sturridge have that quality?
Certainly. Would he accept such a role? In this particular moment in his career, it’s plausible that he would. And here’s why.
His desire to move out on loan in January was understandable due to his hopes of making the World Cup squad for England, but that moment doesn’t exist anymore. When pondering his future, it’s very important to bear in mind that his contract runs out next summer. As he’ll be approaching his 30th birthday, and given his injury record, it’s hard to imagine the club offering him a new deal between now and then, at least a deal that he would find acceptable.
A permanent change of scenario is probably the best long-term option for him. But again we come to the same issue: what about his injury record? What club would pay a proper transfer fee for him, for all his striker quality?
However, signing him on a free would be a different prospect, a low-risk investment, all things considered, and this is why he might well be looking to run his contract down. Meanwhile, like Emre Can recently, he would give his all for the team, for several reasons – tempting potential suitors being one of them for sure.
But let’s leave such theories aside for now. There will likely come a time for them to be tested, but at this moment Liverpool should be focusing on devising the best way to keep their attacking line efficient enough when one of the standard trio misses out over the 2018/19 season. The question that needs answering ASAP is whether Sturridge can contribute to that, and the answer is – he sure can, if he stays fit.
But for the millionth time – how many times have we said that?
A while back, Liverpool Echo reported that the Reds wouldn’t be signing an out-and-out striker this summer. It makes perfect sense as it’s becoming clearer by the day that such a player wouldn’t be able to replicate anything near the contribution of one Roberto Firmino. Apart from that, Liverpool already have Divock Origi, Dominic Solanke, and probably Rhian Brewster too. Danny Ings has, quite understandably, expressed his wish to leave and try to resurrect his career elsewhere.
So who will be the man sitting patiently on the bench, waiting for his chance to shine? Origi, Solanke, Brewster – or Sturridge?
A fit Studge would be the ideal 12-month scenario. In the pre-season opener against Chester on Saturday, apart from two routine Sturridge strikes, he displayed a refreshing level of willingness to drop and get involved in build-up, which would be of vital importance should he get the nod. He played with real flair and produced several defence-splitting passes, even if it was only Chester.
But how realistic it is to expect him to stay fit for at least 80% of the campaign across four competitions – remains to be seen.