Managers must always try and differentiate between a footballers’ quality and their qualities.
Some can’t see beyond the former. Flashes of match winning skill seduce them so much that they ignore what else is happening, and on occasion that negligence of the full package comes back to bite them. It’s easily done.
For other coaches, especially if they’re looking to build a team around that player, the latter will always be a deal breaker.
Jurgen Klopp is the type of boss that sees it that way.
If the German deems someone good enough, you get the feeling that character is every bit as important to him as talent.
There isn’t really a choice for him. Klopp’s famous heavy metal philosophy is entirely built around the premise of teamwork, passion and personal sacrifice.
No-one can play well every week, but the Liverpool chief needs to know you’ll give him and your teammates everything, working selflessly for the cause.
Is that the kind of player Daniel Sturridge is, or aspires to be?
While I don’t think he’s a bad egg or especially lazy, I’m not so sure it is.
The striker is a soloist. He wants to do his own thing, in his own way, in his own time. When he’s fit and ready.
If Sturridge was 19 I’d suggest he was pliable enough to change, but at 26 his dye is cast. He is who is.
That’s why even though the England front man is Liverpool’s most high-quality finisher (and unequivocally the most dangerous striker they’ve got) I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we’re witnessing the dying embers of his Anfield career.
Tonight’s encounter against Villarreal, if he’s even involved, could be the forward’s last European outing in the famous red shirt.
When you look at the list of names in this Liverpool squad that should be heading towards the exit long before he does, selling Sturridge this summer sounds ludicrous. Yet I think it would be better for him and the club to sever their ties.
Klopp needs a finisher that will run his legs off for the greater good. Sturridge needs a manager that will let him do his own thing.
They’ll share good times, but in the biggest matches, in the stiffest tests, it just won’t work.
I’ve played in sides that have wanted to squeeze and press the opposition, and for it to click you need all ten outfield players on the same page. One weak link and the chain will scatter into pieces. The game plan dies.
Behind the scenes, fingers are pointed. Resentment is then bred.
If Klopp isn’t convinced he can rely on Sturridge not to be that guy who skis off piste when he fancies it (and recent team selections would suggest that’s the case) then my money is on a departure from Merseyside this summer.
Wherever he goes, he’ll score more goals. As eight in his last ten Premier League starts suggests, Sturridge is a prolific marksman with an awful lot to offer. They will be queuing round the block for him.
There is no doubting his quality.
Sturridge just doesn’t have the specific qualities Klopp needs for his ‘all for one, one for all’ Musketeer mentality.
A farewell is in the offing.
Watch this space.
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