Eight months on after moving to Australia, Daniel Sturridge’s latest bid to resurrect his career ended with a whimper with the former England international released by Perth Glory.
The 32-year-old joined the A-League club looking for a fresh start after his three-year deal with Turkish side Trabzonspor was cut short by a worldwide four-month ban for breaching betting rules.
The move Down Under, however, ultimately backfired spectacularly with Sturridge plagued by all-too-familiar injuries and managing just 138 minutes of football across six games.
Daniel Sturridge’s spell at Perth Glory ended after just six games in eight months
Sturridge urged people to get the Covid vaccine in a hilarious song after his quarantine spells
‘It has been disappointing. We had high hopes when we signed Daniel. It hasn’t worked,’ Perth chief executive Tony Pignata told SEN’s The Global Game in April.
‘From a marketing point of view, the first game, we had 18,000 [fans attending the game] on the back of him arriving and the hype. Then unfortunately he got injured […] and he hasn’t been seen since.
‘Next year? Look, I doubt that we’ll offer him another contract.’
It speaks volumes for his lack of contribution, that the former Liverpool and Chelsea striker’s spell in Perth will be best remembered for the high standards he demanded from barbers than for anything of note he did on the pitch.
The 32-year-old was hailed as ‘one of the biggest signing in the history of the A-League’ by Perth’s owner Tony Sage (left) on his arrival
But Sturridge never found his mojo in the A-League, managing just 138 minutes of football across six appearances for the Glory
It is a far cry from the optimism Sturridge and Glory owner Tony Sage professed when the deal was announced, with the latter billing the Englishman as ‘one of the biggest signings not only in Glory’s history, but in the history of the A-League.’
Sage said Sturridge’s arrival underlined ‘in no uncertain terms’ how determined Perth were to ‘bring sustained success to the club’ and spoke glowingly of ‘the elite-level quality Daniel will bring to the side.’
For his part, Sturridge described his move to the A-League as a ‘fantastic opportunity’ to ‘try a new challenge’ after a disappointing two years.
Having left Liverpool as a free agent in the summer of 2019, Sturridge found himself training with Real Mallorca last summer after his four-month ban had cut short his spell in Turkey the previous year.
The former England striker was ruled out with a groin injury between February and April
When Sturridge did play, he failed to impress and failed to score a single goal for Perth
With the LaLiga club unable to register him as they had already used their quota of three non EU players, the A-League came calling.
‘When the opportunity came about, it felt like the right thing to do, to take my talent somewhere where I can enjoy my football in a competitive league,’ Sturridge, who scored 68 goals in 160 games in six and-a-half seasons for Liverpool, said at the time of his unveiling.
‘I’m going to put my best foot forward, work hard and try and help the team win each game that comes by and then we’ll see where we end up when the season finishes.’
In reality, Sturridge never came close to matching his and the club’s expectations, starting just one of his six games for Perth and leaving the A-League without a goal or assist to his name.
Then-Perth coach Richard Garcia attributed Sturridge’s injury to him not warming up properly
With their high-profile signing misfiring, Perth endured a dismal campaign.
Grand finalists in 2019, the Glory propped up the table in the A-League this season, continuing a worrying slide that saw them finish sixth and ninth respectively in 2020 and 2021.
As Pignata alluded to there were mitigating circumstances for Sturridge, chief among them the injuries that have plagued him for the best part of seven years.
Having scored 21 Premier League goals as Liverpool came within a whisker of winning the title in 2014, Sturridge found the net just 19 times in the league in his next five seasons combined with his career derailed by fitness problems.
Sturridge won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2019, before being released a month later as a free agent and signing for Turkish club Trabzonspor
But his spell in Turkey was cut short after he received a four-month worldwide ban for betting on football matches and was released by the club
Injuries soon reared their head again in Australia, with two months elapsing between Sturridge’s A-League debut on November 20 and his next appearance as he managed just 75 minutes on the pitch across his first four games combined.
In February, Sturridge lasted just 18 minutes after coming on a substitute before departing with a groin injury that would rule him out until April, much to the frustration of then-Glory coach Richard Garcia.
‘I keep trying to bring him back and he keeps breaking down,’ Garcia, who was sacked and replaced by interim boss Ruben Zadkovich in March, said. ‘We’ve got to get to grips with it and find out where he’s at. […] He’s had these injuries before.’
Tellingly, Garcia suggested the injury may have been caused by Sturridge not warming up properly.
Sturridge’s signing generate enormous enthusiasm in Perth, with 18,000 fans attending his debut against Adelaide United in November last year
The former England striker ultimately never lived up to the expectations Down Under
The latter returned to the pitch on April 30, making his first start for Perth against Adelaide United, but lasting only 45 minutes in what ultimately proved to be his final game for the club.
If injuries wreaked havoc with Sturridge’s season, Covid did not help matters, with the striker undergoing three separate spells in quarantine since arriving in Australia.
The first of them, arguably provided the most memorable moment of Sturridge’s A-League spell.
Forced to isolate in a hotel room, in an Instagram video Sturridge complained about having to quarantine despite being double-jabbed and asked barbers in Perth to get in touch for a post-quarantine trim.
However, they were only invited to do so if they were ‘top level’, possessed ‘top level craftmanship’ and didn’t charge a fortune.
Initially dismissed as the quirk of a footballer obsessed with his image, Sturridge’s detractors soon pointed to the video as proof Perth’s new signing was not fully committed to the cause.
It did not help that only a few weeks later Sage claimed Sturridge had pulled out of a game against Western Sydney due to the being jet-lagged following a four-hour flight from Perth – a rumour Pignata swiftly quashed.
After Sturridge lifted the Champions League with Liverpool in 2019, Jurgen Klopp described him as ‘one of the best finishers I have ever seen in my life’, while he entered England’s doomed Euro 2016 campaign as the nation’s best striker.
Six years on and the 32-year-old is a shadow of the talent that had the country on the edge of its seat. It remains to be seen whether Sturridge will get another chance to showcase his quality.