Free agent leaves lingering feeling of what could have been at Liverpool – opinion

This is the sixth instalment in Football FanCast’s Legacies series, which pays tribute to those players and managers who leave a compelling story behind as they move on to pastures new.

Daniel Sturridge has left Liverpool after six years at the club. Those years spent on Merseyside are brimming with outstanding goals, exuberant celebrations, potent partnerships, missed opportunities and, unfortunately, crippling injury problems.

The striker has often been a divisive character: sometimes wonderfully technical and clinical; sometimes frustrating and lacklustre.

With his departure from Merseyside now confirmed, Football FanCast place the former England international under the spotlight and assess his legacy at the club.

An Overview

Sturridge was signed by Brendan Rodgers in the January transfer window of 2013 along with Philippe Coutinho and the pair had an instant impact at their new club. The Englishman managed 10 league goals before the end of the season, registering three assists, while the Brazilian hit three goals and seven assists in his first five months at the club.

Liverpool’s new number 15 had played at top clubs all his career, having come through the Manchester City academy before joining Chelsea and being involved in their Champions League and FA Cup winning squad.

After joining up with Rodgers, the striker started to find his best form in his first full season at the club as he formed part of a formidable quartet with Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling and their fluid understanding took Manchester City all the way in the 2014 title race.

Sturridge and Suarez were the two top scorers in the Premier League that season, registering 16 assists between them as well. Despite their brilliance, the partnership didn’t last long as Suarez made a £75m move to Barcelona in 2014 having been rejected a move to Arsenal the summer before.

Sturridge was therefore expected to be the main supply of goals with other strikers arriving to help deliver the numbers, though it didn’t work out. Mario Balotelli, Christian Benteke and Rickie Lambert all struggled to lift the weight on Sturridge’s shoulders.

Things didn’t get much better for the striker as Jurgen Klopp arrived with his gegenpress inspired football that simply didn’t suit a very injury prone Sturridge, who’d been losing his pace with every setback he faced.

Roberto Firmino has regularly been the go-to man for Klopp with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane contributing plenty of goals them as the Brazilian’s technical talent joins the dots.

An unsuccessful loan spell at West Brom in 2018 made Sturridge’s future looks bleak at best, but the striker managed to earn some game time under Klopp last season and was part of the squad who hit 97 points in the league and won the Champions League.

Stat Breakdown

Sturridge’s injuries have certainly slowed his progression into his peak years, and it’s clear that his best form came in that 2013/14 season, the sort of form he struggled to replicate without his strike partner Suarez.

In 218 appearances the striker managed 76 goals and 21 assists, therefore almost contributing a goal every two games in his time at various clubs, but one should remember how much more clinical he was in , managing 28 goals and assists in 29 appearances.

That season he also won 20 of those matches and lost just three. He averaged 0.7 goals per game and had a shooting accuracy of 42%.

In an attempt to build on these fantastic numbers, Sturridge began to fall away. Injuries limited his appearances hugely, leaving him with just 12 outings in the Premier League, scoring four goals and registering just the one assist. It’s not got much better since then.

His trophy cabinet is incredibly impressive, though perhaps somewhat misleading as to the calibre of player the Liverpool forward was. Sturridge was an unused substitute in both Champions Leagues he won, was a squad player in the 2010 Premier League success with Chelsea and only made one substitute appearances in the FA Cup finals.

Despite his lack of involvement in the finals, he was still a valued squad member who was certainly a useful option to call upon throughout the season.

Memorable Moments

Sturridge has had many moments to remember, but a few in particular stand out.

The rivalry between Liverpool and Everton has been a fiercely contested one for many many years, and the Reds’ forward certainly had his say in January 2014 when he scored a wonderful lob over Tim Howard in a 4-0 trouncing of their local rivals.

That year Liverpool were sweeping aside everyone in their path who came to Anfield, and very few had an answer to their power, pace and skill going forward as Suarez and Sturridge continued to build on their partnership. The night belonged to the England forward though as his brace took the game firmly away from Everton’s grasp.

Another moment that will live long in the memory of Liverpool fans is Sturridge’s sumptuous chip against West Brom that same season. Unlike any other chip when a striker runs one-on-one with the goalkeeper, this time the in-form striker tried his effort from outside the box, catching the goalkeeper off-guard and scoring for his side in the most inventive of ways.

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What’s his legacy?

Sturridge possessed all the attributes to succeed.

The pace was certainly there, and coupling that with his skill made him an incredibly dangerous and unpredictable player. He wasn’t just a street footballer though, the striker had intelligence and awareness.

He complemented the players around him brilliantly and matured immeasurably under Rodgers. At his best he’s one of those rare players who really can make something happen out of nothing.

He proved that there are bargain buys to be had and that a struggle to succeed at one top club is not necessarily an indication that you cannot achieve at another.

Rodgers took a chance on someone who perhaps didn’t appear good enough for a top-six club and his faith was rightly rewarded.

However, despite the trophy cabinet looking more impressive than plenty of others throughout this legacies series, the injury problems and lack of consistency leave more to be desired.

For all his brilliance, it didn’t come often enough, and when it did it didn’t last. Injuries are unfortunate, but there was a sense of frustration with the forward as well, a sense that he always had a little more in his locker.

That’s why for all his brilliance, fans will probably look back at what a good player he was, but theorise that Sturridge was one who could have been something very special indeed.

Legacy: What could have been

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