Liverpool could make perfect repeat of Daniel Sturridge transfer as FSG move suspended on one condition
A very promising but injury-plagued Chelsea player and a Liverpool side ready to take a gamble. This formula has worked perfectly in the past, with Daniel Sturridge emphatically grabbing his lifeline to become a cult hero at Anfield. Now FSG may have the chance to repeat that trick – but a decision depends on one factor.
In general, there’s a reason why Liverpool are somewhat on hold when it comes to buying from the top six clubs. The FSG lack the financial clout to simply outplay these domestic rivals, so top players generally cannot be attracted. Conversely, any player who struggles to get into another big Premier League side is unlikely to be good enough for Jürgen Klopp’s side.
This rise to the top of the game over the past few years makes Sturridge’s repeats all the more unlikely. A fee of around £12m was not insignificant at the time for a player who was rarely more than a peripheral figure at Stamford Bridge. It was a bet on his still untapped potential, an example of the much-vaunted ‘Moneyball’ concept championed by FSG when he arrived at Liverpool.
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Now the focus has shifted to reducing the risk of transfer movements as much as humanly possible. Stacks of data analysis are scrutinized, with the aim of finding players who can fit seamlessly into the Liverpool system. Luis Díaz is the latest resounding justification for this FSG approach – one that has far less time for punts on players like Sturridge, who are rated as “undervalued” by the market.
Nonetheless, good value for money is still of crucial importance to FSG, and if they think they can find it in the top six of the Premier League, there’s a good chance Liverpool will return to that market. Likewise, Ibrahima Konaté is proof that there is still a certain tolerance for risk in the corridors of power at Anfield when it comes to high-potential players, given the willingness to ignore his spotty injury record and complete a transfer last summer.
All of this could bring FSG back to Chelsea. Just like with Sturridge, the London outfit once again seem to be mismanaging an elite talent, one that Bayern Munich were trying to land for £70million just 18 months ago.
The man in question is Callum Hudson-Odoi. Just over two years younger than Sturridge when he made the switch, he nonetheless took a reasonably similar path.
The 21-year-old has 72 Premier League appearances to his name, compared to the 63 Sturridge racked up before moving to Liverpool. Like his predecessor, Hudson-Odoi has had to make do with several appearances as a substitute, making just 28 starts over the past three campaigns. He even had the same bad luck with injuries, with a damaged Achilles tendon stalling his momentum at Chelsea.
For Liverpool, the most important similarity is that Hudson-Odoi has also shown enormous potential in his limited involvement. His dribbling ability is his most obvious trait, but FSG will no doubt be well aware of the data that demonstrates his myriad other strengths.
Most notably, Hudson-Odoi ranks extremely well for random creation. This season in the Premier League, no one comes close to him in terms of key assists from a carry. Across Europe’s top five leagues, he is in the 95th percentile of attacking midfielders and wingers for shot-creating actions per 90 over the past year, and the 89th percentile for assists per 90 (FBRef).
Injuries haven’t spoiled the physical side of his game either. Liverpool will note with interest that Hudson-Odoi’s pressure by 90 is almost exactly halfway between that of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, suggesting that he would be more than capable of dealing with the rigors of Jürgen Klopp’s system.
However, it is also this existing duo that provides the main sticking point. Sturridge entered a Liverpool team with Luis Suárez, but with very little other competition to attack. Fast forward to now, and FSG have assembled an attack featuring Salah, Mané, Díaz, Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino – at present it’s hard to see how Hudson-Odoi could get more playing time at Anfield than he manages at Stamford Bridge.
As such, the FSG should only really consider this transfer on one condition: the departure of one or more of the established attackers. It’s still a very real possibility, with the contractual situations of three of those five names still up in the air. Liverpool will want to sort out renewals for at least two of them, but Hudson-Odoi could present an exciting alternative if there is no breakthrough in the talks.
Of course, Chelsea will also be stubborn in the negotiations. Their rejection of Bayern’s advances in 2020 is proof of that. But the situation has evolved: Hudson-Odoi can barely start even amid the struggles of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner. Turning 22 next year and with a contract until 2024 running out slowly, there is theoretically motivation on all sides to complete a move at a reasonable price.
Sturridge is the role model, and if FSG sanction an attacking start this summer then Liverpool may know where to go in search of an elite transfer replacement.