By Luke Gains.
Three days on from Madrid – where Liverpool had their name carved into their sixth European cup since the club’s creation in 1892 – and the club has announced the departure of former Chelsea and Manchester City striker, Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge, 29, leaves ‘The Reds’ having scored 67 goals in 160 appearances since completing his £12 million move from Chelsea in January 2013.
He spent 21-months under Northern Irishman, Brendan Rodgers before German, Jurgen Klopp – formerly of Bundesliga outfit, Borussia Dortmund – took the reigns at Anfield.
In those 21-months under Rodgers, now of Leicester City, he will be most remembered for his contribution during the 2013/14 season, where Liverpool tussled with eventual champions Manchester City for the Premier League title.
He, Sturridge and Luis Suarez, now of FC Barcelona, formed a formidable partnership and, between them, had a hand in 84 goals Liverpool scored that season across all competitions.
The club, as a whole, reached 108 goals in all competitions that season. This meant – between Sturridge and his Uruguayan partner – they had created and scored 77.77% of Liverpool’s overall goals tally for that campaign.
Sturridge himself achieved 25 goals and 9 assists from that percentage – the standout goal coming at Anfield where, from outside the box, he delicately chipped West Brom goalkeeper, Ben Foster to send ‘the Kop’ into a frenzy.
In Klopp’s formative years at Liverpool, Sturridge continued to figure prominently and played a significant role in both the Carabao Cup and Europa League finals under the German.
He scored a brace at St. Mary’s as Liverpool thrashed Southampton 6-1 in their quarter-final tie on route to the 2016 Carabao Cup Final.
He would go onto to start in the final against Manchester City, who would eventually win on penalties to claim the trophy.
His agony would not be extensive, though, as Klopp’s team began to shape on a European scale – specifically, the Europa League.
No more than 16-months later and Daniel Sturridge would start his second successive final as a Liverpool player under German, Klopp.
He had scored in Liverpool’s 3-0 over Villarreal at Anfield in the semi-final of the competition and would go on to start another final for ‘The Reds’ at St. Jakob-Park.
Barely 35 minutes into the final against Spanish outfit, Seville and Daniel Sturridge would deliver one of the most outstanding finishes of any European cup final to date.
A crisp, curling effort with the outside of his left boot beating goalkeeper David Soria and sending the Liverpool faithful into raptures.
It felt, for a second, as though the talents of the player may finally lay claim to a trophy such ability merits.
But it was not to be as a second-half goal Kevin Gameiro and a brace from Coke ended Liverpool’s chances of bringing European silverware back to Anfield.
Klopp would enter into his second full season as manager and Daniel Sturridge, now 27, knew that it was going to be a case of now or never.
There was a concern at Anfield, amongst supporters and the club, about the fitness of their star player, Daniel Sturridge.
He had not been quite the same player since the 2013/14 campaign – and it had nothing to do with the departure of talisman, Luis Suarez, to Barcelona.
In the 2014/15 campaign – the year after Liverpool had challenged Manchester City for the title – the player missed the entirety of the Champions League group stages.
His absence was felt and Liverpool crashed down into the Europa League following a dismal display in the group phase.
Sturridge missed 34 games that season through injury and there was a feeling that, with every one of his injuries, Liverpool chances of fulfilling their ambitions diminished piece by piece.
His only real memorable moment of note that year coming in the Europa League, where his goal at Anfield helped to knock out rivals, Manchester United.
In the 2015/16 campaign, Sturridge would again be unable to start in 34 of Liverpool’s calendar fixtures because of injury.
On 29 of those 34 occasions, the player was not even fit enough to make the match squad – the other 5 occasions he was deemed only fit enough for the bench.
He did complete 90 minutes on 9 separate occasions, which provided some encouragement the player could get back to consistently staying fit.
But as Klopp entered that second full season, it was not just Sturridge that knew it was now or never.
The club had pinned their hopes on a player who’s talent undoubtedly merited it; however, the player’s injury record also meant there was a degree of blind faith involved.
In the 2016/17 season, Liverpool would finish the year inside the Champions League positions and, once more, compete in the biggest club competition; the UEFA Champions League.
Daniel Sturridge, however, had begun to take a back seat to rising star and Brazilian international, Roberto ‘Bobby’ Firmino.
Sturridge only completed 90 minutes on one occasion – at Burton Albion in the League Cup – and was not fit enough to start 22 fixtures that season. He could not make the squad on 15 occasions.
The following season Sturridge, who had fallen drastically down the pecking order, would be loaned out to West Brom Albion in January of that campaign.
The Baggies, however, would feel the force of frustration that Liverpool had endured when the player picked up an injury inside weeks of putting pen to paper on a loan deal.
He would only play 77 minutes of football in his first two months at the club.
He would return 6-months later to play a supporting role in Liverpool’s 2019 European Cup victory in Madrid – a year after they had lost to Real Madrid in Kiev.
This season, 2018/19, there was an acceptance that, with just one year remaining on the player’s contract, he would depart for good come June 2019 – and so he has.
And yet the story of Daniel Sturridge, on paper, will never truly tell you the nature of how talented an individual he actually was.
He was one of the most naturally talented players this club has seen since the creation of the Barclay Premier League.
The best compliment that can be paid to the player is that, on ability, he ranks alongside the likes of Barnes, Fowler, Owen, Torres, Suarez and Salah.
He may not be remembered in the same way those players are remembered, but in his prime, he would not have looked out of place alongside any of them. That, a true representation of the player he was and could have been.
It’s no secret injuries prevented him from going on to establish his true potential. He could have been the best striker in the world but for an ample amount of injuries. He was the type of player who combined pace & agility with a typical number nines eye for goal.
In the darker days of the club, supporters questioned his appetite. They wanted the tenacity that Suarez showed, the bite that Gerrard delivered with every challenge, the will to win that Carragher embodied. But that was not the player he was.
He was electric, vibrant, skilful, possessed a delicate touch, a great ability to drop the shoulder and get away from a man. He, Daniel Sturridge, was what, back then, you would describe as a continental player. He should have played for Spain.
England has a lot more of his type nowadays. But not back then. As supporters, neutral lovers of football, sporting enthusiasts; it was probably just hard watching such a talent go to waste.
He will be remembered as a very talented Liverpool FC player – and he certainly was – but he should, however, have gone on to be remembered as a Liverpool legend. This, on paper, would have laid bare to the true nature of the player and is perhaps his – and ours – biggest regret.
You can follow Luke on Twitter here: @lukebjournalism