Brendan Rodgers can save Daniel Sturridge's career at Leicester City
Sturridge needs to be loved
Daniel Sturridge has officially left Liverpool after six years of service. Albero Moreno has, too, but nobody really cares. For Sturridge, his time in the north west was ruined by injury, much like most of his career has been, which is a travesty considering on his day he is an extremely talented footballer with plenty to offer.
The 29-year-old scored some memorable goals for the Reds during his tenure at Anfield, notably that stunning strike with the outside of his boot in the 2016 Europa League final against Sevilla. His unbelievable long-range effort against former employers Chelsea earlier this season - which rescued a point for Liverpool right at the death - will also be remembered for years to come in Merseyside.
There will be no ill-feeling towards Sturridge from the majority of Liverpool fans, who know just what a tremendous player the England international can when fit. His career has sadly been plagued by injuries and at a club like Liverpool, with such an abundance of quality available to them - especially in the attacking areas - there is little chance of ever breaking back into the starting line-up after lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Plenty of options
Now a free agent, Sturridge won't be short of options this summer, with a host of top flight clubs already signalling interest in his services. Among them are the cash-rich West Ham and Wolves - both of which offer plenty for a Premier League football player seeking employment.
Though Sturridge is free to a good home this summer, his staggering £120,000-a-week paycheque could prove to be the issue when rehousing him. It is likely that he'll have to take a pay-cut to engineer a decent move; both West Ham and Wolves could afford to offer him around £100,000-a-week, but would it be the right move at this pivotal stage of his career?
Sturridge's ties to the West Midlands do make a move to Molineux appealing, but would manager Nuno Espirito be able to offer him a regular starting spot in a starting-eleven which impressed so much last term? It is unlikely. Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez have rightfully nailed down the attacking duties after their scintillating performances last season; combined, the pair netted 22 league goals as Wolves obtained a hugely impressive seventh-place finish in the Premier League, so there is little need to change a winning formula. The only benefit of having Sturridge is to use him in Europe, but again, after years spent on the bench at Anfield, why would the 29-year-old want to become another bit-part player at a different club?
West Ham is an interesting prospect for Sturridge, they've certainly got the finances to cope with his demands, while the allure of living in the capital always has to be viewed as a huge positive for a footballer used to living a life of luxury. He knows the city, too, from his time spent at Chelsea so the transition would be smooth, but would Manuel Pellegrini really get the best of him?
He already has one extremely injury-prone forward to contend with - Andy Carroll - another could spell disaster. Sturridge needs to join a side where he would be important to the team and be given plenty of opportunity, but not be the main man, totally relied upon to deliver every week. He needs to play under a manager who already knows what his strengths are, a manager who knows exactly how to get the very best out of him - that leaves one clear option: Leicester City.
Rodgers willing to take the risk?
Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, now manager of Leicester, was the one who bought Sturridge from Chelsea in 2013. Rodgers was the man to give the England forward a regular chance in the Premier League following two spells at Manchester City and Chelsea where first-team chances came few and far between. The Northern Irishman knew how to get the best out of Sturridge, and though injuries always reared their head - like they have always done with the former Aston Villa trainee - when he did manage to remain fit, he showed exactly what he could do on the main stage.
Five seasons ago, during Liverpool's memorable 2013-14 campaign, which saw the Reds branded as the 'nearly men' after narrowly missing out on the Premier League title thanks to that infamous Gerrard slip, Sturridge was, momentarily, one of the best strikers in Europe. Luis Suarez grabbed the headlines that year, as he always did during his time in England, but it was Sturridge's contribution that season that'll never be forgotten.
Scoring 24 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions - 21 of which came in the league - the Birmingham-born front man was in unstoppable form as Liverpool finished as runners-up in the Premier League, just two points behind eventual winners Chelsea. His plaudits that season earned him a regular spot in Roy Hodgson's England team (this is pre-Harry Kane, remember), while he also scooped the coveted PFA Player of the Month award twice throughout the campaign.
That memorable season five years ago was peak Sturridge, it showed the world exactly what he was all about and what he could achieve if he stayed fit. Sadly, staying fit for long periods of time was out of the question and as he's gotten older things have seemingly just gotten even worse for this player who once showed so much promise. At one point in 2016, statistics showed that Sturridge had been unavailable for 54.8% of Liverpool's games over a two-year period.
This simply wasn't good enough for a team who needed elite players fit and ready to deliver top quality performances on a weekly basis, to be able to compete with the very best in both the Premier League and Europe. Roberto Firmino was the man to do that, bought in by Jurgen Klopp - who had replaced Rodgers in 2015 - which signalled the beginning of the end for the striker at Anfield.
Now, years on and without a club, Sturridge finds himself standing at a crossroads. His next move will likely be his last but if he gets it right it could be the making of him once more. Of course, the main issue he will always face is staying fit, which is why it falls to the prospective clubs to take a gamble on him, a club willing to take a risk in the hope that he can repay them by doing what he does best, scoring goals.
One man that could well be is Brendan Rodgers at Leicester. The Foxes are a steady ship, floating pleasantly above water in the Premier League but next season will feel as though a push for Europe has to be the aim. Jamie Vardy has and will continue to be the main man at the King Power, he is deserving of that title, but he needs help and with Kelechi Ịheanachọ the only back-up, reinforcements need to be brought in ahead of next season to ensure the Foxes have adequate depth to their squad.
At Leicester Sturridge would be an important member of a mid-table Premier League side who know how to play to his strengths, with top class wingers able to continually feed him in the penalty area - he'd also link up with former England team-mate Jamie Vardy excellently in the final third. Should he stay fit, Sturridge could enjoy a successful season in the East Midlands, he'd be close to home and have the opportunity to enjoy playing football again. All he needs is for Rodgers to take a risk on his former starlet. We sincerely hope he does.