On top of his game

Daniel Sturridge grabbed 10 goals in just six months at Anfield and quickly formed a deadly strike partnership with Uruguayan Luis Suarez — an arrangement which has seen the pair contribute 14 goals so far this season. By James Cann.

Seven-year-old Daniel Sturridge could not believe what he was seeing.

The nephew of former Derby striker Dean Sturridge, young Daniel had dreamed about becoming a professional wrestler until Michael Owen’s iconic solo World Cup goal against Argentina changed his mind. The boy from Birmingham had been banging in the goals for Aston Villa’s youth team for several years but was not yet big and strong enough to emulate the fine solo run and angled finish from Owen that so exhilarated England fans in France in the summer of 1998.

Fast forward 15 years and Sturridge is a Liverpool and England star, just like his childhood hero. The skilful striker first turned heads when he broke into the Manchester City first team in 2006 but, despite his growing reputation, he found his chances limited at the Etihad Stadium.

Winning the club’s Young Player of the Year award failed to land him a new contract and he moved to London to join Chelsea — the fee being decided by a tribunal. Sturridge was eased into the Chelsea team for a season-and-a-half, impressing with his four-goal haul in the successful FA Cup campaign.

January 2011 brought a prosperous six-month loan to Bolton which yielded eight goals from 12 appearances to thrust the 21-year-old back into his parent club’s plans. Then manager Andre Villas-Boas asked Sturridge to prove himself and he did so, scoring 13 times, including a fantastic opener inside 45 seconds of a clash with local rivals QPR.

He was an unused substitute in the Champions League final but raced onto the pitch to celebrate at the final whistle after Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties.

It was the beginning of the end for Sturridge at Chelsea, however, with injury limiting his contribution in the following autumn. On January 2, 2013, Sturridge completed his GBP12 million move to Liverpool and never looked back.

He grabbed 10 goals in just six months at Anfield and quickly formed a deadly strike partnership with Uruguayan Luis Suarez — an arrangement which has seen the pair contribute 14 goals so far this season.

Reds midfielder Lucas Leiva believes his colleagues’ connection is improving with each match and points to the quality of the goals they score as proof.

“The link between Luis and Daniel is only getting better,” he said. “When you have two strikers in good form they are in we always have to make sure we defend well because we will create chances and score goals.”

Suarez grabbed a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over West Brom although there was an argument for Sturridge netting the best effort with a delightful delicate chip to put the result beyond doubt.

Lucas added: “I think Daniel scored the best goal to be honest. Luis’ header was a great header and the first goal was typical Luis — the ‘meg’ and the good finish but I think overall it was four fantastic goals.

“It’s just great to see them linking well and we hope this will continue during the season.”

Sturridge is, of course, hoping to follow in Owen’s footsteps and represent England at the World Cup finals. His two goals during the recently concluded qualifying campaign mean he has appeared and scored at all levels of international football for the Three Lions, as well as scoring twice for the Great British Olympic team at London 2012.

“It is going okay at Liverpool,” Sturridge said. “I am going to take each day as it comes, work hard in training and thanks to God for everything he has blessed me with. I am now focusing on performing for my club and making sure I get on the plane to Brazil."

His first car was a rented 1 Series BMW but Sturridge now zooms around Merseyside in a Porsche Panamera. Sturridge is currently single but admits he “would not say no” to Barbadian pop star Rihanna.

FACTFILE The player: Daniel Sturridge POSITION: Striker CLUB: Liverpool DOB: 01/09/1989 International caps: 8 International goals: 2

Moment to remember: His stunning chip against West Brom in a League game. Strike partner Luis Suarez had already earned the match ball and grabbed the headlines with his classy hat-trick but Sturridge scored arguably the goal of the game, and possibly the best of the 2013-14 season so far.

Moment to forget: After recovering from meningitis in time to score two goals for Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics, Sturridge missed the spot-kick that allowed South Korea to win a penalty shootout and progress to the semi-finals.

© PA Sport, 2013, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.