Though he still looks a little rusty at times, Daniel Sturridge has made an instant impact for Liverpool since returning from his long injury layoff. For a time, following a series of nearly-there returns and relapses, it had almost begun to seem as though he might never play for the club again, but now that he’s back Brendan Rodgers believes he’s even better than before.
"He’s obviously had a tough period," said Rodgers at his pre-match press conference ahead of Thursday’s Europa League match against Besiktas. "When you’re that talented and have so much ability, to be out that length of time is very hard, but he’s also had time to go away and reflect on his game. He hasn’t just been recovering from the injuries but also been busy analysing his game."
Rodgers believes the improvements from the work he’s done breaking down his own game while he’s been away may take some time to come to the fore, but what is already clear to the manager is that Sturridge has returned to action a leader. Where before he had just been a striker—albeit a very, very good one—Sturridge is now taking on a vocal leadership role for Liverpool’s young squad.
"It’s brilliant how he’s taken on a real leadership role," said Rodgers. "You can see him going back, organising at corners and on set pieces, making sure people are all doing their jobs. That’s all on top of the wonderful ability he has. He’s just a top class talent, and it’s been great seeing his movement and his relationship with the other players in the system. He brings real life to it."
There are even early signs of a promising partnership with Mario Balotelli, who he shared the pitch with for most of the second half against Crystal Palace, with the two playing off each other to create the space Sturridge exploited for his goal. Now, Liverpool fans—along with the manager—will just have to hope he’s truly past his injury troubles and can go on to even greater things.