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'It was not difficult to see that Sturridge was going to be good'

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has not only a resurgent Didier Drogba and an in-form Juan Mata to worry about at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night, but a former City player in Daniel Sturridge.

The young striker has finally managed to show his true worth for Chelsea this season, and even if his finishing remains erratic, his pace and ability to beat players will pose problems for the best defences. Last week Sturridge cut Newcastle United wide open so many times it was embarrassing.

He could have scored at least a hat-trick, and though he was one on one with the goalkeeper several times a combination of Tim Krul's reflexes and a slight lack of composure in front of goal meant he only got on to the scoresheet in the 89th minute.

Mancini has no doubt that composure will arrive with experience. Sturridge moved south on Mark Hughes' watch, before Mancini arrived in Manchester, but the City manager still cannot believe the club let such a valuable asset leave almost for free.

"I know Sturridge well, I have watched him many times," Mancini said. "It was strange because he started out in Manchester and someone let him out of the club for nothing. Given the chance I think I would have liked to have kept him, but now he is at Chelsea we can do nothing. I know for sure he was one of the best young players that was here. I asked him last year when he played for Bolton why he left Manchester City and he said he didn't know."

The usual suspects, money and restricted first-team opportunities, were partly to blame, though once at Chelsea, Sturridge had to come back north on loan to pick up playing time with Bolton. Mancini would have preferred to send him out on loan from City and have him back as a first-team player by now. "It was not difficult to see that Sturridge was going to be a good player," Mancini said diplomatically.

There is nothing to be gained from picking a row with the previous manager over something that now belongs in the past, but since Sturridge's quality began to emerge at Bolton and Chelsea many City supporters have questioned the logic of the club paying over the odds to sign Roque Santa Cruz, then hardly ever playing him, while simultaneously letting a home-grown talent with an exciting career ahead of him join a rival club relatively cheaply.

Sturridge is not Manchester born and bred -- he hails from Birmingham and is related to the former Wolves player Dean Sturridge -- but he came through the City academy after spells at Aston Villa and Coventry and his potential was quickly spotted.

"If Sturridge was here today he would be playing in our first team," Mancini said. "This season he can arrive in the national team too. I understand the situation with young players, it is difficult for them to improve if they don't get the games they need, but it is better to send them on loan rather than lose them altogether."

In fact City did make a modest amount of money on Sturridge. As he was both under 24 and out of contract in 2009 a tribunal awarded City £3.5m, rising to £5.5m depending on appearances, and Chelsea will have to forfeit 15 per cent of any future sell-on fee.

Sturridge and Drogba both scored in Chelsea's 3-0 win at Newcastle last weekend, though Mata was man of the match, then the 33-year-old Ivorian rolled back the years to confound doubters with two goals in the victory over Valencia to secure a place in the Champions League knockout stage.

"Drogba is still a strong striker," Mancini said. "Chelsea have a good mix of young and old. Mata is a young player but he played for Valencia for many years in the Champions League, Sturridge is just starting out. I think every team needs young players because you cannot play with just old players, senior players. But at the same time you often need experience. If young players play with senior players they can improve every day."


Sunday Indo Sport