As soon as Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he would likely leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer, it was clear numerous players would be linked with possibly filling the Swede's sizeable boots, but not many would have predicted one of those names would be Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge.
The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel reported on Wednesday PSG were interested in the England forward and could be considering tabling a £45 million bid for the international. The report suggested PSG will have delegates in the stand for Saturday’s international match between England and Germany, hoping to get a closer look at the Liverpool striker.
Let's be clear, it's as unlikely move as you will get, with perhaps more chance of Zlatan staying and Paris replacing the Eiffel Tower with his statue than the Liverpool striker being paraded on the Parc des Princes pitch.
However, here at Bleacher Report, we are open to all rumours—from the ridiculous to the well-informed—and rather than openly dismiss this, let's look at the possibility of Sturridge arriving in Paris and what the striker would bring to Laurent Blanc's side.
Zlatan's departure opens up a spot in the centre of the PSG attack. If, and this is a key part, Edinson Cavani stays beyond the summer, the smart money is on Blanc using the Uruguayan as the club's No. 9 and giving the former Napoli man a chance to prove himself as the club’s main striker.
Watching PSG highlights. Cavani's overdone celebration after scoring on rebound from own saved penalty to make it 8-0 a little embarrassing.— Jeremy Smith (@jeremysmith98) March 14, 2016
Yes, Cavani has scored 14 league goals this campaign, but people who watch the Parisians on a regular basis know he is far from the deadly striker he is sometimes made out to be. That is based mainly on statistics, but when you look beyond goals scored, he is less than convincing.
One defence for Cavani's performances is he's played out of position, but when you look at the tweet below and the goals he has scored, they are all from central areas. This is because wide left is only his starting position to please the graphic people. With Ibrahimovic dropping deep regularly, the space is there to exploit.
This season, Cavani's shot accuracy, via Squawka, is at 59 per cent, with a 24.1 per cent conversation rate. When compared to Zlatan, with a shot accuracy that is very similar, at 60 per cent, the Swede is 5 per cent more efficient.
Although he has only made seven appearances this campaign, Sturridge matches up impressively in the same areas. His shot accuracy is up at 77 per cent, with his conversation rate actually higher than Zlatan, up at 30.8 per cent.
During the 2014/15 season, it dropped to 12.5 per cent, but in the opinion of this writer, Sturridge would like to write that season off completely. When he scored 21 goals in the 2013/14 season, he achieved that attempting 99 shots on goal, per WhoScored.com, giving him a conversion rate of 21.2 per cent.
BR: @D_Sturridge is a wonderful player. We've seen in the period since he's come back that he's a natural goalscorer. http://t.co/Ddh0rDKjZu— England (@england) February 18, 2015
When talking about Sturridge, one recurring theme that is regularly mentioned is his ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Many believe he is the most natural finisher in both the Liverpool and England squads.
Sam McGuire from the Anfield Index recently looked at the criticisms from Reds fans and explained the intelligence Sturridge has shown in the Liverpool attack:
'He doesn’t press. He’s lazy' is a common phrase used with regards to Sturridge. There’s a big different between clever movement and being lazy, like there’s a big difference between clever pressing and a headless chicken act. Daniel Sturridge may not be the most energetic of players but his movement in recent matches has been so intelligent it should be admired. He’s purposely drifting wide, dragging centre-backs out of position and isolating full-backs, to create space centrally for Liverpool to exploit. Teams like to sit deep against Liverpool and Sturridge’s movement has been key in opening up both Southampton and Manchester United.
In the last part, you could easily substitute Liverpool for PSG and it would make perfect sense. The majority of Ligue 1 sides sit back and defend in numbers. As their reputation in Europe grows stronger, it will spread into the UEFA Champions League, too.
If Blanc wanted to play his normal 4-3-3—the same formation he has used successfully over the past two seasons—Sturridge has a history of playing wide in a three-man attack. As McGuire explained, the Englishman can drift wide, occupying defenders and dragging the back four across the pitch.
To gain an even better idea on what the England international could bring to PSG, we spoke to BR's Karl Matchett, and he was full of praise for the Liverpool forward:
Sturridge is, without question, a most adept and capable all-round centre-forward who can lead the line by himself, but that’s not to say he stays level with the defence.
His greatest assets are not just his first touch and acceleration, but also his movement—in behind the defence at the right times, but also down the channels between full-back and centre-back, as well as dropping off much deeper to pick up possession in space.
He’s as comfortable running directly at the defence with the ball at his feet as he is racing onto a direct pass and he’ll always firstly look to get a shot away. He can be individualistic, but with good reason given his strike rate when fit.
Cavani would take up the central position and Sturridge would be allowed to come inside when the opportunity presents itself. Both strikers like to move around the front line; with a little understanding, there is great potential in them working together.
Signing Sturridge, or another traditional centre-forward, would give Blanc the option to change to a 4-3-1-2, playing Cavani and Sturridge with Angel Di Maria as the No.10. The upside of this is it doesn’t massively change the philosophy Blanc has built since he joined the club.
The width would still come from the full-backs, plus it would allow Blanc to use Javier Pastore and Lucas Moura in the same role as Di Maria. The Argentinian superstar is good enough to play in the midfield three, giving PSG more flexibility and freedom.
"He’s one of Europe’s best strikers," McGuire continued. "Selling him for £20/30/40 million doesn’t guarantee Liverpool will replace him with a player of his quality. When he’s fit, he’s priceless."
That, however, is the biggest problem with Sturridge. Injuries. Over the past two seasons, the Birmingham-born forward has only started 19 times. If there is some genuine interest from the Parisians this summer, his recent problems would be a huge deterrent.
Martin Keown told the Daily Mail Klopp has a big decision to make on the future of Daniel Sturridge amid the reports of PSG's interest:
I think that would be absolutely stunning - he has hardly played! Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a very naturally gifted player and now he looks to have a manager who understands him.
I hope he stays where he is – we could finally see the best of him over a long period – but it may be tempting for Jurgen Klopp to cash in for that money. You could imagine half of the Bundesliga turning up in the summer!
Is he just an icing-on-the-cake player or is he integral to them going forward? Klopp needs to decide.
With Zlatan leaving, PSG don’t need an "icing-on-the-cake player"—they need someone who is going to play at least 25 league games and be ready and able to play every game in the Champions League. They need someone who is going to play a key role and score 20-25 goals a season.
They also need players who are going to bridge the gap between them and the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Perhaps a fully fit, fully functioning Daniel Sturridge could be that guy, but for €60 million and two seasons of uncertainty, it’s a huge risk to take.
PSG are not in a position where they already have two/three key forwards who could step up in the absence of Sturridge missing key games in Europe—that is ultimately the biggest downside and the main reason this move is unlikely to happen this summer.