In the case of some players, it is hard to take out the heart and only think with ones head. With Daniel Sturridge, this is something Liverpool fans have struggled to do. However, it is something Jürgen Klopp must now do. Sturridge has now been at Liverpool for five seasons. In those times he has given Liverpool supporters some amazing memories. Yet, is Daniel Sturridge’s future now in doubt?
The Future of Daniel Sturridge
Liverpool have many issues on the pitch but scoring isn’t one of them. Since the humiliation at Tottenham, Liverpool registered, in Europe, three goals at one of the toughest places to visit away. They backed that up with three goals against Southampton and Huddersfield then another four at West Ham. In their last game against Chelsea, they only managed a solitary goal. However, that still leaves Liverpool’s attack with 15 goals in the last five games.
Mohammed Salah has been described by many as the best signing of the summer. He is leading the Premier League goalscoring charts and looks likely to score every game. Sadio Mané will benefit from a first goal back after injury against Sevilla and Roberto Firmino now has five Champions League goals in five games as well as a further three in the league.
Yet, there is room for improvement. Firmino has upped his strike rate notably from last season. However, his selection is based more on his hard work than his lethal finishing. His work rate brings into play Mané and Salah and increases their productivity in front of goal. Yet, Liverpool have rued missed opportunities in multiple games. A fast, dangerous, hardworking but selfish in front of goal forward would offer Liverpool much. While that was Daniel Sturridge in 2013, it is not him today. There is simply no room for Daniel Sturridge in the first team of Liverpool in his current incarnation.
World Cup Chances
Sturridge has been reported as wanting to leave in this upcoming window. He understands he is not going to get a regular place in the Liverpool attack. Therefore, at 28, there is little surprise that he may be looking for option away from Anfield. If he does not go, he is dramatically reducing his chances of making it to the World Cup this Summer.
That Sturridge is still a realistic option shows the lack of quality attacking options open to Gareth Southgate’s England side. That he has only just been dropped from the England squad after four years of sporadic performances suggests a run of games would win him his spot back. He is not going to get this at Liverpool. Sturridge has conducted himself well at the club, an ambassador on and off the pitch. Therefore, if he is not getting game time and wants to go, Liverpool should let him go, should they not?
Quality off the Bench
The problem Klopp has is giving up the chance of bringing on a player of the calibre of Daniel Sturridge as a substitute. Having him on the bench gives Klopp a fantastic option when chasing a goal. He also provides a quality replacement, allowing Firmino to be rested. Sturridge can still affect a game.
His ability to influence a match was shown in the derby at Goodison Park last Christmas. In the 90th minute of a stalemate, he engineered, from nothing, the shot which led to Mane’s winning goal. His ability to be in the right place at the right time is natural and unteachable. Keeping him at Liverpool will make the squad stronger. So why would Klopp give this up?
Sturridge has been a great servant to the club. However, with Sturridge, everything depends on the issue that has dogged him for the last four seasons. How fit does he need to be in order to stay? Right now, Klopp has been able to manage his fitness well. Yet, there is little confidence in his ability to maintain this level for the long term.
Liverpool have a young, hungry player in Dominic Solanke, suffering from a lack of game time. Equally, Danny Ings is back from injury and scoring goals in the reserves. Klopp may be better off letting Sturridge go and developing a player who has the potential to become a first-team regular.
There are also the practical and financial consequences of keeping a player like Sturridge. Incredibly, he is still the highest paid of the Liverpool attack force. Although he has been drastically limited in his time on the pitch, Sturridge still earns between £20- 30,000 a week more than Firmino, Salah and Mane. His £120,000 a week wage makes him the joint second highest paid player on Liverpool’s books. This is not practical financial management.
Sturridge’s contract runs out in 18 months. Every window Liverpool hang onto him, his potential transfer fee decreases. Liverpool owners, FSG, have shown themselves unwilling to invest large quantities of money into the club. Daniel Sturridge will be an in-demand asset whose sale could help in the purchase or vitally needed reinforcements. The struggles of well-established Premier League teams mean that Sturridge will be in demand. The January transfer window is notorious for allowing clubs to overcharge. Liverpool could receive a significant fee for a player who rarely plays; an amount which would reduce greatly if they waited for next summer.
For Sturridge, his decision is easy. He should push for a move. If he wants a place on the plane to Russia he must show he can play regularly and score goals. With West Ham, Stoke and West Brom able to match his wages there are options in the Premier League. There will also be multiple clubs abroad willing to take a chance on him.
For Liverpool, the situation is more complicated. It will be difficult to replace him with a forward who fits Klopp’s plans better in January. Yet with the opportunity to sell at a far superior price, letting go of Sturridge may help finance key transfers next summer.
Much will depend on Klopp’s belief in the other forwards he has available. Sturridge leaving Liverpool would thrust Dominic Solanke into the spotlight and may give the young English forward a chance to shine. Having already earned an England cap, more game time could allow Solanke to push for the England squad. It would be ironic if, in pursuit of game time to guarantee his England place, Sturridge provides the game time for the player who replaces him for England.