The transfer rumour mill never stops churning and today it’s thrown up a real doozy, amid claim Paris Saint-Germain are ready to pounce for Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge and part with an eye-watering £50million for the privilege.
Of course, the hyperbolic world of transfer rumours is about as reliable as chocolate sandpaper (my skirting boards look like a dirty protest) especially when they’re produced by the Daily Mail – which in the world rankings of chocolate sandpaper is somewhere near the bottom next to a gravel-infused Curly Wurly.
But there’s something so unexpected and sensationalist about the rumour; the notion of a regular England international moving to the uncompetitive French top flight, the allegation that money-mad PSG want to pay such an outrageous sum for a striker whose table in the physio room comes with its own reserved towel; that it obliges our attention – even though there has already been a somewhat unconvincing denial from the Parc des Princes.
And perhaps the most obvious question, for reasons I’ve already alluded to, comes straight out of the Godfather. Laurent Blanc might not be about to sever Lucas Leiva’s head and place it alongside a sleeping Jurgen Klopp, but would a £45m bid from PSG represent an offer Liverpool can’t refuse?
The crux of the debate centres around two rather phenomenal set of statistics; Sturridge’s injury record vs. his scoring record in quite a tasty matchup.
The 26-year-old has netted 47 times in 81 appearances across all competitions since signing from Chelsea in January 2013 – including a prolific Premier League haul of 39 goals in 62 outings. He reached 30 league goals faster than any Liverpool player since the 1890s and produced the third-best return of any Liverpool player after 50 league games, his 33-goal haul bettered by only George Allan and John Parkinson of pre-World War One fame.
So statistically speaking, Sturridge is amongst the most potent strikers to ever don the Liverpool jersey – rather incredible, considering the Reds’ alumni of world-class strikers is so large any reunion would have to be held at Wembley stadium. Consequentially, he’s also one of the Mersey outfit’s most prolific goalscorers throughout the Premier League era, boasting a 0.63 league strike-rate that matches Luis Suarez, trumps Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler and falls just 0.01 behind Fernando Torres.
So logic suggests the Reds should fight tooth and nail to hold onto one of the most efficient goalscorers throughout the club’s history, or at least squeeze Laurent Blanc’s gentlemanly onions in a vice until he agrees to pay considerably more.
Not that Sturridge’s qualities are limited exclusively to hitting the net; he’s a silky striker and a smart player who can stretch defences on the counter or wriggle through them with his direct dribbling. The more subliminal aspects of his game often go underappreciated, but there’s a reason he and Suarez developed such a telepathic understanding during their 18 months together on Merseyside.
But of course, as Liverpool fans will be well aware, any argument worshiping Sturridge’s ability to make the onion bag consistently ripple with Scouse delight is juxtaposed by his harrowing injury problems.
Before returning to fitness in January, the England assassin had been unavailable for 54.8% of his three years on Merseyside, picking up 18 separate injuries that affected seven different body parts – including a hip problem that saw him sidelined for a whopping 165 days alone. Injury prone is a bit of an understatement; having a world-class career as a hospital patient destroyed by being occasionally forced to play for Liverpool is far more accurate description.
That has reduced Sturridge to just 19 Premier League appearances since the start of last season, only ten of which were starts. And of course, if you’re only available for 45.2% of games, the rest of the time you’re about as useful as… well, chocolate sandpaper – chocolate sandpaper you’re inexplicably paying £150k per week to cover your banisters in a murky brown. With that in mind, Liverpool should be biting Blanc’s hand off – and not in the torturous manner I suggested earlier in regard to his onions.
But there are other factors to consider. Firstly, is £45m a fair price? Considering the aforementioned injury problems, that may seem like Liverpool are pulling off the greatest daylight robbery since the 5p carrier bag tax, but in the context of the current market it’s by no means an astounding sum.
Two years ago, Barcelona paid £75m for Suarez and even that was considered a slight discount as a consequence of the Uruguayan’s lust for recreating scenes from 28 Days Later. Likewise, transfer fees have only inflated by the usual slapstick proportions since then, so is £45m enough for the Reds to source an equally talented replacement? Benteke set them back £32.5m just a matter of months ago and he couldn’t score in a crack house at the moment.
Secondly, Liverpool are in danger of gaining a reputation as a feeder club for Europe’s elite, even if offloading a crocked striker for the joint-second largest transfer fee received in their history, alongside Torres, is considerably more understandable than some of their recent transactions.
Indeed, Chelsea tempted away Torres, Barcelona swooped for Suarez, Man City stole Raheem Sterling, Javier Mascherano was nabbed by the Nou Campers and Real Madrid raided the Reds for Xabi Alonso. Spanning back even further, the trend started when Steve McManaman was lured to the Bernabeu in 1999 and Michael Owen followed him five years later.
With a world-class manager now at the helm, Liverpool should be holding onto their prized assets in what is meant to be a new era on Merseyside. And of course, it seems inevitable that the moment Sturridge leaves Anfield, he’ll never again break so much as a toenail, playing (and scoring) in every game as PSG lift the 2017 Champions League title and England lift the 2018 World Cup.
But Klopp is an expert recruiter, whose ability to spot and develop promising talent took Dortmund from the brink of financial meltdown to the 2013 Champions League final, lifting consecutive Bundesliga titles along the way. I’m sure there’s a lot he could do with an extra £45m in his back pocket – fill out his entire press conference wardrobe with Liverpudlian cultural references for a start.
Overall, it’s a really tough call that has equal potential to backfire for Liverpool as it does PSG. But personally, I would keep Sturridge until at least the end of next season. If Klopp can bring in the right players this summer and Sturridge can keep himself fit for at least 28 games next term, the Reds have a really good shot of qualifying for the Champions League. That’s a much stronger position to start deciding whose indispensable and whose expendable and at what cost.
Likewise, if PSG don’t revive their interest in summer 2017 and Sturridge is marooned on Merseyside, I can think of a lot worse situations than being stuck with an injury-prone top-class striker – having every wooden surface in your house covered in a layer of sandy melted chocolate, just in time for the parents’ annual visit on Easter Sunday, being one of them.