Action Images via REUTERS/Ed Sykes
Perpetually injured and never able to recapture the form of 2013/14 - that saw him score 21 Premier League goals as Liverpool finished second - Daniel Sturridge has long fallen out of favour under Jurgen Klopp.
Making just 43 league appearances in the three seasons the German has been with the Reds, Sturridge has consistently failed in proving his fitness, as Klopp's allegiances were gifted to a flourishing Roberto Firmino instead.
Willing to let the 28-year-old go last summer, resulting in a January loan move to West Brom, where he made a grand total of six appearances due to - wait for it - injury, Klopp has seemingly had a change of heart, opting to retain Sturridge's services as he looks to win his first title. And it's the right decision.
Fix up, look sharp
Pre-season would suggest that Sturridge indeed heeded the words of grime icon Dizzee Rascal and fixed up. In fact, he's looking particularly sharp. The striker has three goals in four games - netting twice against Chester and once versus Blackburn Rovers - though scoring against weaker opposition isn't overly indicative of what he can offer throughout the season.
Sturridge, however, seems to manage his body in a much more sustainable way. That's what's important. Typically a player reliant on speed, the 28-year-old rarely broke into a full sprint, instead relying on intelligent movement to gain a yard on his marker.
Whether this derives from unwillingness or incapability, it's extraneous to the point - high intensity sprints foster muscular fatigue and thus further susceptibility to injury. Sturridge, perhaps, is getting to understand the limitations of his body in more depth.
We’re not in doubt – and nobody was ever in doubt – about his quality. In this moment he looks really good to be honest. That’s cool – really cool for him and cool for us - Klopp on Sturridge's pre-season performance.
Demonstrating a willingness to drop between the lines to get on the ball, too, this is an aspect to his game that will be useful with the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane making runs beyond him from the flanks.
Firmino's form coupled with Sturridge's injury record has seen opportunities limited for the Englishman at Anfield, though the former's involvement with Brazil at the World Cup and his late return to training could provide Sturridge with a chance to shine at the beginning of the campaign.
The form of Danny Ings, who looks set to leave Liverpool, Divock Origi's struggles on loan at Wolfsburg and Dominic Solanke failing to have a marked impact last season, Sturridge sits atop the pile of backups.
"He can be a very decisive player," Klopp explained, and keeping him at the club could prove essential throughout the season. He won't grab 15 or more league goals, but he has the quality to make small, but crucial impacts in short bursts in matches.
Action Images via REUTERS/Ed SykesIn the Champions League final, for example, Liverpool's bench was particularly uninspiring. Klopp ultimately ignored Solanke to bring on Adam Lallana once Salah got injured, but having Sturridge in that situation, though, could have made for a different game.
In the 1-0 defeat to Swansea, too, imagine bringing on Sturridge instead of Ings. Or the 0-0 draw with West Brom, when Klopp turned to a misfiring Solanke. Liverpool needed a player capable of popping in the right position at the right time.
Hence, the benefit of keeping Sturridge. This is a player, mind, that netted 50 goals in 87 Liverpool appearances.