A career unfulfilled: What does the future hold for Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge?
Has there been a more frustrating, complex and yet hugely talented English striker over the last decade than Daniel Sturridge?
The 28-year-old has played for some of the most high profile clubs in the country and has demonstrated that he possesses the ability to become one of the most deadly finishers in the Premier League.
Yet, after a promising start to his career and a handful of random purple patches of goal scoring form, injuries and inconsistency appear to be slowly eroding what should be the peak years of his career.
It was only three years ago that Sturridge was being talked about as being one of the leading marksmen in European football as he scored 25 goals in 33 appearances during the 2013/14 campaign.
Brendan Rodgers partnered him with Luiz Suarez and the duo played a major part in Liverpool’s honourable, but ultimately failed, title challenge with their movement, pace, trickery and creativity causing chaos among Premier League defences.
What a difference three years can make.
Since his debut season at Anfield, Sturridge has struggled to make any kind of significant impact despite supposedly being in his prime.
In truth, he is considered as little more than a squad player by Jurgen Klopp and there are no signs that the striker is anywhere near to being considered as a key part of the German’s long-term plans.
Ultimately, injuries have played a role in his decline. Indeed it often seems that the 28-year-old spends more time in the treatment room than on the pitch, and when he has been handed playing opportunities, his performances have been inconsistent and unspectacular.
Klopp handed Sturridge a rare start at the weekend as Liverpool travelled to the north-east to face Newcastle United, opting to drop Roberto Firmino to the bench after the Brazilian produced a tired-looking display in mid-week.
Sturridge was positioned as the focal point of the Liverpool attack, where he prefers to play, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane deployed on the flanks and Philippe Countinho as a number ten. In short, the team appeared to be perfectly set up for the striker to plunder goals with an abundance of creativity surrounding him.
However, Sturridge failed to have any real impact on the contest and looked a shadow of the player that terrorised defences three years ago. His movement was sluggish, his enthusiasm was laboured and he lacked sharpness around the eighteen yard box.
During the second half, the 28-year-old was presented with a simple chance ten yards from goal, after Ciaran Clark had horribly sliced his clearance, but his resulting shot was timidly poked straight at the goalkeeper.
Moments later he was substituted.
The problem for Sturridge is that a career that had so much promise is now in danger of culminating in him being little more than an afterthought and, for a player blessed with so much ability, there is a genuine feeling that he may never now fulfill the potential that he undoubtedly has.
At the age of 28 there really can be no more excuses or apologies – he simply has to find a way to kick start his stuttering career.
That could well mean a move away from Anfield. It is becoming increasingly clear that Sturridge is not a key component of Klopp’s revolution and the body language of the player himself at the weekend suggested that he is far from happy with his current situation at Liverpool.
However, it seems unlikely that any of the so-called ‘big’ clubs would have any interest in signing the 28-year-old based on current form and it is questionable as to whether lower Premier League sides would have the financial clout or ambition to attract a player of Sturridge’s calibre.
This leaves him somewhat in limbo.
Whatever the coming months and years may hold for Daniel Sturridge, one thing is certain – no one wants to look back on a career unfulfilled.