IT is there, always present for Jurgen Klopp’s press conferences. It finds a space on podcasts, takes a seat on taxi journeys, and is around for morning coffee as well as a bedtime brew.
Liverpool’s new manager termed that old resident the “daily Daniel Sturridge question” — which is apt as it fits alongside everyday enquiries like “what time is it?” and “what’s the weather like?”
“How far off is he?”
“What’s the latest with him?”
“Any idea of when he’ll return?”
The never-ending probing is because the 26-year-old forward is an elite footballer: a luminary talent who sparks his teammates and terrorises rivals. It feels cruel to reduce his accomplished catalogue to just one goal, but his effort against West Brom in October 2013 is a particular favourite.
Luis Suarez scored one of his many hat-tricks in a Red shirt that afternoon, but that contribution from Sturridge was masterly. The England international’s anticipation and movement, his speed of feet and body strength, his technique and confidence to execute that chip can be consumed on loop.
The Uruguayan elevated Sturridge’s game, but it worked the other way, too, with Suarez calling him “the best partner I’ve had in my career” before his move to Barcelona.
In Suarez’s autobiography, Crossing the Line, the 28-year-old detailed how clinical his fellow forward could be: “When I watched him in training, my ability for him grew. I knew that he was quick, but the way that he could finish really struck me. Every shot went in. Every time.”
Sturridge’s finish is cleaner than the dishwashing brand of the same name. Opposition defences fear their sheets will be dirtied when he’s in the line-up, and the tragedy of that is the No.15 has not been on the team-sheet often enough over the past two seasons.
In 2014-15, he was ruled out of 39 games through an assortment of thigh, hip and hamstring injuries. This season, he has played just 241 minutes of football, but still sent out a double reminder against Aston Villa of what he offers when fit.
Philippe Coutinho has said the former Manchester City man makes his job easier. Adam Lallana called him the club’s edge. And… our eyes don’t lie.
There are whispers about the fragility of his mentality around niggles, but given his propensity to getting them, it seems a wise decision to be cautious rather than careless.
Another player, who was accused of the same when he couldn’t honour an international call-up, said on the subject: “People who have never experienced major injuries are the ones who want to talk about how to deal with them.
“Do they think it’s fun to be a footballer and not be able to play? That’s it’s nice to sit and watch? It’s not. Recoveries are hard work, it’s draining and not enjoyable. Games are what I live for. If I felt I could play, I’d be the first one to fight with the medical team to allow me to. But I’ve learnt when your body talks, you have to listen.
“Sometimes everything reveals it is fine to play, so you ignore what you’re feeling and you do it, and then, next thing you know — out again.”
There is plenty of sense in that.
It is unfortunate that Klopp has not had the opportunity to sample the best of Sturridge yet. The manager is big on players who are determined to better themselves, but who can also have a bit of fun. Daniel’s dancing will delight him — perhaps not so much the choreography, but certainly the exuberance of it.
Rightly, Klopp has played down the striker’s absence, choosing to rather focus on the personnel available. Liverpool cannot afford to hit pause and wallow in the “what ifs” over Sturridge like they did last season. It will benefit him to recover without the heightened expectation or anxiety that has surrounded his previous sideline spells.
There may not be any solid answers over Sturridge’s sharpness, but there’s definitely a sadness that such a gifted footballer has to be represented in a series of questions rather than on the pitch.
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Liverpool pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda-Photo