Will Chelsea and Man City Regret Letting Daniel Sturridge Get Away?

Do a Google search for ‘Daniel Sturridge Bad Attitude’ and you’ll find over 13,000 search results.  Ever since Sturridge signed with Manchester City as a reserve he somehow was labeled as having a poor attitude.

In 2009 Sturridge left City after some reportedly very high wage demands.  At the time the young striker had made just 3 league starts and was demanding wages making him the highest paid teen in the Premier League.

Such lofty wage demands may seem unreasonable on the surface, but Sturridge had just led City to the FA Youth Cup Final while scoring in the first leg and leading all scorers in the competition.  Sturridge is still the only player to score in the FA Youth Cup, FA Cup, and Premier League in the same season.  Despite his promise and goal production when used, his appearances remained limited.

Was Sturridge thinking too highly of himself at City or did he simply want out?

A move to Chelsea was arranged the following summer after a disputed transfer process between the two clubs.  A small fee was agreed upon and further payments to City would be based on first team appearances.  With a reported £500k paid to City for every 10 appearances, could Sturridge’s struggles for first team action have financial roots?

The following season Sturridge struggled for first team appearances behind Didier Drogba who started the season off in with unstoppable form.  Despite scoring 4 goals in 7 non-Premier League games, he couldn’t get a league start and change was on the way.  January 2011 saw the arrival of Fernando Torres in a record breaking deal and the departure of Sturridge to Bolton on loan for the remainder of the season.

Most casual fans will probably mark the Bolton loan spell as the moment Sturridge really burst on to the scene.  Despite playing for much weaker side Sturridge was able to net 8 goals in 12 appearances.  I recall being absolutely stunned Chelsea has just spent £50m for Torres while loaning out such a talent.  Disregarding sub appearances for Chelsea, the striker had a fine record of 12 goals in 20 appearances all season.

Questions of attitude and commitment persisted about a player that seemingly did nothing but score goals.  Daniel chased down balls, ran himself into the ground, and finished in a clinical manner.  The goal celebrations were positive and uplifting, and his teammates appeared to enjoy his presence.

Despite such an impressive loan, spell his place at Chelsea was still questioned and many considered him the third option after Didier Drogba and Torres.  The year 2012 saw appearances increase and  goals continued with 11 in 28 league starts.  Though Torres publicly struggled, he was constantly chosen ahead of Sturridge for the big games like the FA Cup final and Champions League run. Puzzling.

Coming into 2013 the future was again uncertain for the Chelsea striker.  Despite Drogba’s absence and Torres’ continued inconsistency, his rightful place in the starting XI was far from certain when returning from an early season injury.

To this point Sturridge had seemed to score at will, yet he was shunned again.  Attitude alone could not be holding him back.  One needs to look no further than his former club Manchester City for examples of talent overcoming attitude on a daily basis.  Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, despite major controversies, played regularly while making Daniel Sturridge appear saint-like.

Impressive form and lack of personal distractions being rewarded with a semi-permanent place on the bench would surely spark an ‘attitude’ in the best of us.  Could the young striker, who has performed admirably for club(s) and country, be perfectly justified in being unsettled when completely underappreciated?  I’m willing to bet Owen Coyle didn’t find evidence of an attitude problem when Sturridge was guiding Bolton well clear of relegation.

The most recent move to date involved Chelsea buying the uninsurable Demba Ba and his wrapped-in-cotton knees, while selling Sturridge to Liverpool.  At 23, Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard have already warned the youngster that his spell at LFC could be his final chance at a big club.  One could argue it’s his first true chance.  Chelsea’s loss already appears to be Liverpool’s gain.

In three appearances, Sturridge already has three goals.  He appears to be the goal poacher and the in-the-box presence Liverpool have needed ever since Torres started pouting his way out the door under Roy Hodgson.  His on field demeanor and body language with his new teammates is excellent.  His goal celebrations are modest by many standards and when scoring against United there was appropriately no celebration at all.  Sturridge is a team player.

Is it possible Liverpool are the first club to truly appreciate, and need, his immense talent and this is the turning point for the striker?  Was Sturridge simply this unfortunate victim of club politics and manager turnover at City and Chelsea?

Little real evidence exists of the supposed attitude problem.  Where are the drunken brawls, unapproved trips away from the team, and touch line flair ups with managers?

I suspect the young Englishmen will continue to excel for Liverpool and England, and he will make at least two clubs wonder how he got away.

Follow me on Twitter @kkjellquist

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