Daniel Sturridge swipes away 'mental' slur
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge says he is devastated by suggestions he has not pushed himself hard enough to return from injury and dismissed as "ridiculous" claims that his absences owe as much to psychological as physical problems.
The England striker went some way towards easing Liverpool's fears that he is considering his future following criticism of his prolonged lay-offs, insisting he is fully committed to the club.
Manager Jurgen Klopp was enthused enough by the forward's response to consider Sturridge's future resolved ahead of a key period for Liverpool.
Sturridge is set to play against Augsburg in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie tonight and then against Manchester City in Sunday's League Cup final.
"To say a player doesn't want to play is the biggest disrespect to any footballer and it's astonishing," said Sturridge.
"It's very disappointing. I don't think anyone will understand how much it means to me to play football.
"I'm very ambitious, very determined to help Liverpool have some success. I am totally focused.
"I want to be on pitch playing in every game and it hurts not being able to play. I'm not at home chilling, I'm not out with friends living life to full. I'm not happy sitting in the stands.
"I'm devastated at watching them play. It hurts hearing second and third hand what people say.
"All I want to do is help this team have success. That's the most important thing. Nothing else matters."
Sturridge is on course to score his 50th goal for Liverpool quicker than any striker in the club's history, having struck 45 in just 76 appearances since he joined them in 2013. However, his lack of games over the same period has caused consternation, sparking theories that range from an unwillingness to play with slight niggles to outlandish suggestions that he feels injuries are part of God's plan.
"It's all surprising - I didn't know religion had anything to do with football," said Sturridge, who reads the New Testament every day.
"I will continue to focus on playing for Liverpool. In life there's times when you have great periods and ones with difficult periods. In every job, not just football, it's how you deal with those situations. I am blessed by God. I have no stresses. I am a happy guy."
On whether he will remain at Liverpool beyond this season, Sturridge added: "It's important to worry about the present. It's been a difficult time being injured but it's a part of football and now I'm looking forward to the future - of course with Liverpool."
Those who know Sturridge best will tell you that he is one of those who always has to feel 100 per cent mentally and physically if he is to play, though a hard fact of life for any player is that they cannot expect that kind of certainty.
Despite the imminent cup final, Klopp plans to play a full-strength line-up to overcome tough Bundesliga opponents, with whom Liverpool drew 0-0 in the first leg.
The German said: "I've heard from him [Sturridge] a lot of times about 'the future' and a few things are more clear now than before.
"I have a hungry striker back. He has to start games - that is pretty important to get the best shape."
Liverpool v Augsburg,
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