It’s been a bad couple of days for Liverpool this week. Not only has their star striker confirmed he wants to leave the club, but there are now concerns over the fitness of Daniel Sturridge. The 23-year-old picked up an ankle injury in the friendly against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday, and the Reds are anxiously awaiting the results from the scan.
With fears that Sturridge could be missing at the start of the club’s pre-season training in the summer, Liverpool are likely to claim for compensation from the FA, and rightly so. It will be a big disruption for the Reds, as they look to build on their 7th place finish in Brendan Rodgers’ first season in charge.
The FA have often had to pay compensation to clubs for injured players. Liverpool received £500,000 when Steven Gerrard picked up a hamstring injury in 2010, whilst injuries to Theo Walcott, Jermain Defoe and Michael Owen have all led to compensation being paid by the FA’s insurance scheme.
Under the FA’s insurance deal, a club can claim £50,000 for the first two weeks their player is absent, and £100,000 per week thereafter up to a maximum period of almost two years. And it seems the Reds will take up this option, after their star striker’s ankle injury on Wednesday.
What has disappointed Liverpool officials the most is the timing of the match. With the season over for English clubs, fans and managers have questioned the timing and need for England’s two friendlies. After an extremely long season, players are in need of rest, and a long summer to recuperate. It’s a mystery how some of the Chelsea players are still going, after their incredibly long season saw the club play 69 matches since August 12th. At that doesn’t include their international players representing their respective nations too. So why do we need a further two matches?
As seasons get longer and longer, the chances of players picking up injuries get higher. And with some of England’s best players playing in European competitions as well as domestic cups, the nation’s most talented stars are starting to play more and more games. So why England are now playing 2 more meaningless games is beyond some fans. The Ireland game’s only significance was in the history books, and holds no relevance to qualifying for a tournament. The meaningless of the match was shown by the players too, in a boring and tired 1-1 draw.
Questions have to be raised over the friendlies in relation to Euro 2012 too. It was only 51 weeks ago that the international competition started, that lasted just under a month. But after the best players in Europe had a delayed summer last year due to their international commitments, stars of the game have been playing for most of the last 12 months.
Whilst countries like Germany decide to have a winter break, to allow players time to recover and enjoy the holidays with their families, England have continued to play throughout Christmas, despite the growing calls for a season pause. Most of the English players in the Premier League get to relax during the international breaks. But England’s best players are playing in those weeks too, and so are given very little time to recover.
So Liverpool could now miss Daniel Sturridge for a big chunk of their pre-season, because he was injured in a meaningless match, at the end of an extremely long season coupled with an international tournament 12 months ago. Needless to say the Reds’ camp are not happy. With Suarez now expected to leave the club this summer, Sturridge looks set to be a key player for the club next season, and Rodgers will want the forward to be fresh and ready ahead of the new campaign. He wouldn’t want the 23-year-old to be a couple of weeks behind in the pre-season training.
Rodgers will also need Sturridge to be working with any new signings the club make. With an expected price tag of £30million plus around Suarez’s neck, Liverpool will most likely sign a few players to replace the Uruguayan. Rodgers will want to be watching those new signings link with Sturridge in training, and watch the new players grow a working relationship and understanding with the England striker. That could be difficult if Sturridge is watching from the sidelines on his crutches.
Of course injuries are unlucky. They can happen to anyone, and are part of the game. But if clubs start to lose their best players because they are injured on international duty, then they will soon try and stop any of their stars from playing in their nation’s shirt.
Sturridge couldn’t pull out of the game, as he is looking to impress Roy Hodgson, and would be damaging his chances of playing for his country again by saying he didn’t want to play. Plus it’s an honour to play for your nation, and Sturridge probably enjoys that privilege too. However, Liverpool have come out of this match with a big loss, as they sweat over their striker’s injury.
The disruption it will have on the club is high. Sturridge could well be the leading striker for the Reds next season, but suddenly Rodgers may have to be bringing in cover for the Englishman in case his injury setback is a long one. Liverpool should be demanding compensation, as their pre-season plans could be ripped up and made afresh with this injury blow.
We have seen players who miss the opening weeks of pre-season look unfit and sluggish in the first few matches of the new season, as they look to desperately catch up with the rest of the competition’s players. Liverpool will be frustrated in how and why the injury has come up, and terrified that it could see their start of next season being disrupted.
If the injury occurred in a World Cup qualifier, Liverpool would be more understanding. An injury in an attempt to help his side qualify for a major tournament is, whilst disappointing news for a club, acceptable and understandable. But for a friendly, is £100,000 a week enough? The damage it can cause is frustrating enough, but more so when it was unnecessary.
The end of season friendlies, and the injury to Sturridge, has left the FA with some questions to answer. Should there be friendlies at the end of an already long season? Should there be a winter break, to allow players to recover, or even to play friendlies then? And should the compensation fees be higher for meaningless friendlies, and kept the same for tournament qualifiers?
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