He was once one of the most feared strikers in England, but will anyone take a chance on the 30-year-old?
Daniel Sturridge has been hinting of a return to the Premier League.
The former Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea striker says he has “unfinished business” after this season swapping the drizzly outlook of the English league for the sunnier climate of the Turkish Super Lig with Trabzonspor.
This was a move that he no doubt hoped would reignite his career after a series of injuries seemed to derail the potential of a striker who was at one time, briefly, one of the deadliest in Europe.
Many have already written off Sturridge as a top-flight flop but I have always held the belief that with the right luck and the right move there is still a very good player waiting to shine and his brief spell in Turkey has done nothing to extinguish that belief.
Right now, however, when you mention the name “Daniel Sturridge” it is often prefixed by the words “the injured” as the England forward has found his career dogged by repeated problems. He is a player that almost has his own cliche as countless footballing pundits have proclaimed: “if you can keep him fit” you would have “one hell of a player”.
As with most cliches, The statement holds some truth.
Throughout his career, Sturridge has consistently shown promise but unlocking that potential has proved an unsolved mystery for many of his managers at some of England’s biggest clubs.
Manchester City’s Promising Talent
When Manchester City let the promising 19-year-old leave the Etihad stadium to join up with Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, there was a feeling from some fans that the club may have let a superstar slip through their fingers. Sturridge was a regular at England youth level and had been voted the Young Player of the Year at City the year before his departure but the striker clearly felt his future lay elsewhere.
Maybe Sturridge’s City exit was a sign of things to come for the player. His demands for a £55,000-a-week deal in Manchester had shocked City and questions were being asked as to whether the player was sacrificing game time and development for the financial riches offered by Abramovich’s Chelsea revolution.
There have been many accusations down the years that Sturridge’s attitude has affected his fitness, rather than any underlying medical issues. A suggestion that he is not a player willing to “play through the pain” where perhaps others would. An unwillingness that has only served to increase his time on the treatment table rather than the pitch.
Early Promise at Anfield
It was an injury-hit season in 2012/13 and the arrival of Rafa Benitez at Chelsea that led to Sturridge’s exit from London to join Liverpool. A move that led to the season where perhaps Sturridge fulfilled his potential.
It is a quirk of the player’s career that he can still be considered a flop despite having stepped onto the pitch for 3 of the biggest Premier League clubs. But, it is a reflection of exactly how much promise Sturridge showed that many consider this to be the case, promise that he briefly fulfilled with his move to Merseyside.
His start to life in Liverpool was electric. In his debut season, he scored 10 goals for the club in record time. Breaking records for reaching that milestone faster than anyone else in the club’s history.
The next, he finished second in the Golden Boot only to his strike partner Luis Suarez with 22 top-flight goals. But, it would be injuries again that would blight his progress and he would go onto spend a whopping 700 days on the Anfield treatment table – forcing Jurgen Klopp to convert Roberto Firmino from attacking midfielder to centre forward to plug the gap (which hasn’t gone too badly).
For a player who was being compared with greats such as Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torress when he first arrived at Anfield, taking 3 years to reach 50 goals for the club was perhaps not in the script. In fact, he has failed to reach double figures in a single season since that fateful 2013/14 season.
Injury and Attitude
Over the last few seasons, the usual footballing suspects have criticised Sturridge, his “attitude” (Graham Souness) and his “disruptive influence” (Simon Jordan) and it is perhaps telling that now, at the age of 30 he is standing close to, if not already on the footballing scrap heap.
Having reportedly selected his recent move to Turkey from 13 (presumably less lucrative) other offers on the table it was important that this time it worked out. Sadly that wasn’t to be the case, leaving the club in March (by mutual consent) after being handed a 4-month ban for breaching FA betting regulations.
The unique aspect of Sturridge’s fall from grace, however, is not that he lacked the ability to live up to the price tag. It was either his body or his mental state that proved the issue. Which, we may never truly know.
Will he get a second (or maybe fourth or fifth) chance in the top flight? His four goals and four assists in the eleven appearances he DID make for the Turkish club, however, may be enough to convince someone to take a gamble (of the legal variety) on the 30-year-old, who will turn 31 before the new season begins.
Someone somewhere will be convinced that they can unlock that potential but this time it really could be his last chance.