It’s our own fault, really. Liverpool fans, those who remember the graceful, imperious Daniel Sturridge of the 2013-14 campaign, will still admit to a small part them having a hard time moving on. Because despite six-year run at Anfield that has seen him ripple the back of the net a laudable 63 times, it is the 99 games missed to injury that will loom over the striker’s legacy at the club.
And yet, every preseason, that cultured left foot and sheer quality seduces supporters with all manner of what-ifs, that maybe just maybe this will be the first time since that magical title challenge that the 28-year-old remains both healthy and central to the team’s fortunes.
This is year is no different. With three goals and an assist so far, the silky striker has, along with the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Naby Keïta, looked a clear cut above the rest. Operating in a slightly deeper role than normal while developing a budding understanding with the Guinean, some have even started tentatively penciling Sturridge in as the perfect backup to first choice Roberto Firmino, finally finding a place in Jürgen Klopp system’s where the enigmatic attacker fits.
But the injuries. There is a resignation that this period of health probably won’t last. The pain of losing Sturridge to injury has dulled to the point that when the forward stayed down after a challenge in the preseason friendly against Borussia Dortmund, the reaction was less horror and more “welp.”
It would seem that Klopp himself has taken a similar stance: that it’s great to have a fit Sturridge in the back pocket but he’s not really banking on it.
“He is in very good shape, that’s true,” the German manager responded to a question about the no. 15’s fitness. “It was a very intense pre-season so far and he was part of pretty much all the sessions. He looks really good.
“Who doubts Daniel Sturridge when he is fit? I don’t. He is an outstanding player, hopefully he can stay fit and then the future is bright.
“He is still young enough, it’s not that he is 30-something. He is experienced as well and has this kind of natural arrogance that you need on the pitch, so you don’t always start anew if something doesn’t work, that you are out of the game for 10 minutes or, even worse, not involved for the full game.
“He stays in the game and it’s good for us to have him around. You saw it today.
“The second half without Daniel would have looked completely different.
“It was that good because we had Daniel in the right spaces and he could lead the group with the ball, if you want. That was really good. I’m fine with him, 100 percent.”
Hopeful but realistic; positive but non-committal. Too good to loan when fit, too fragile to count on. Keeping Sturridge around and having him usefully contribute in this most vital of campaigns will be a bonus, but sadly he is no longer that essential cog his talent would demand.