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What's next for Daniel Sturridge?

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Just when you thought things couldn’t get much worse for Daniel Sturridge, they do. The former Liverpool striker - an ex-England regular who at one stage looked to have an incredibly long and successful top-flight career ahead of him - left Anfield last summer upon the expiry of his contract. 

While there were rumours of the 30-year-old remaining in the Premier League following his departure from L4, with the likes of West Ham, Wolves and Leicester all reportedly showing signs of interest in him, Sturridge instead ended up signing for Turkish Super Lig outfit Trabzonspor. 

It has been a case of “same old same” for the Birmingham-born forward across the Mediterreanian, though, as he has spent the most-part of his debut Super Lig campaign in the treatment room.

Indeed, Sturridge has only made 16 appearances for Trabzonspor this term, but in that time he has managed to score seven goals and provide four assists - further highlighting his undeniable quality, and more so the annoyance of his recurring fitness issues. 

Now, the ex-Manchester City and Chelsea front man has a bigger concern - the FA have banned him from all football-related activities until the end of the season and fined him £150,000 for breaching the FA’s gambling regulations.

Sturridge, who terminated his own contract with Trabzonspor on Monday morning, was handed a two-week suspension last July after a regulatory commission ruled that he had provided his brother with "inside information" and instructed him to bet on his possible transfer to Sevilla in January 2018. 

However, the FA felt that decision was too lenient and, after launching a fresh appeal, have found the player guilty of two further charges. The 30-year-old will now be banned from playing football - worldwide - until June 18th 2020.

It is yet more anguish for Sturridge, who has already witnessed his career take a massive downturn. While a lot of it cannot be helped - namely his problems with injuries and staying consistently fit - this latest kick in the teeth is all his own doing.

It begs the question - what’s next for this once-prolific Premier League striker?

Well, the immediate future is obviously decided for him. The FA, alongside Fifa, have imposed a four month world-wide ban for Sturridge, ruling him out for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign. The main issue is that if potential club’s weren’t wary of taking a gamble on him (excuse the pun) before, considering his previous problems with injury, they will certainly be deterred in doing so now. 

A return to the Premier League is all but out of the question. Sturridge may have been plying his trade in England’s first-tier only 12 months ago but even then he was not playing regularly for Liverpool, and since leaving he has been featuring sparsely in the much less demanding Turkish top-flight. 

Now he is ruled out of competitive football in any league across the globe for the next four months, meaning his match fitness and sharpness will face further harm. It therefore seems impossible to see Sturridge return to the Premier League, especially as he has now entered his early-30s, making a move elsewhere seem like the only viable option - but where?

Reunite with Gerrard at Rangers

Rangers have previously been linked with Sturridge. Prior to his switch to Trabzonspor, it looked as though he may have hooked up with his former Liverpool team-mate, Steven Gerrard, at Ibrox. The move made sense on the face of it - Rangers were undergoing a period of transition and looked as though they would challenge for the SPL title for the first time in years; the addition of a player like Sturridge would have only strengthened them.

However, for whatever reason a move fell through - potentially down to finances - and the 30-year-old moved elsewhere. Fast-forward six months, though, and the prospect of signing for the Gers now seems a fairly attractive one from the outside looking in. Despite the startling difference in climate, Sturridge could be extremely successful in Scotland; Rangers may have now all but lost the league title but they have massively improved under Gerrard and this season find themselves in the last-16 of the Europa League, which is a hugely promising sign.

Next term, with the aid of a proven goalscorer such as Daniel Sturridge spearheading their attack, Rangers could finally overthrow fierce rivals Celtic at the top of the Scottish top-flight. Everyone knows that the league is much, much weaker north of the border and a player of Sturridge’s quality would undoubtedly flourish if he could remain fit. It seems like the perfect opportunity on the face of it, and one which could really help to get his career back on track.

Transatlantic adventure? 

The next option which has been mentioned of late is a move to MLS with David Beckham’s brand new franchise Inter Miami. There have been reports that the Englishman could be involved in Becks’ exciting new venture in the States, with his profile in the game definitely an asset for the Miami-based start-up. MLS has massively grown in popularity over the years and it is mainly down to big-name players, who are approaching the tail-end of their careers, making the switch across the pond. 

Beckham himself kick-started the movement back in 2007 when he penned a deal with LA Galaxy and since, the likes of David Villa, Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo and more recently Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all lit up the American top-flight, paving the way for more big-name stars to follow suit. 

Former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela is another player who has dominated the division since his move to Los Angeles FC in 2018. The 31-year-old has registered an astonishing 56 goals and 23 assists in his first 70 appearances for LAFC - another recent addition to Major League Soccer having started out in the league just two years ago - showing exactly what is achievable for a player with quality in a division like MLS.

Sturridge can use Vela as a case study in many ways. The Mexican’s success in America could easily be replicated by a player of Sturridge’s ability and, alongside all of the lifestyle-related benefits this move would entail - sun, wealth and an array of sponsorship opportunities - signing for Inter Miami seems a match made in heaven for a player who is currently in free fall, and a brand new team in desperate need of an experienced footballer to lead their forward-line.

It is currently difficult to see where Sturridge will be playing his football next season, if anywhere at all. There are definitely plenty of avenues to be explored and all is certainly not lost for a player who, despite unavoidable issues with injury, does still offer a great deal to the game - you only have to take a look at his stats from this season to understand that.

His days at the very top may now firmly be over but, though it may not seem so at this very moment, this could be the start of something exciting for Daniel Sturridge; a new chapter that he so desperately needs. 

If he gets his next move right, that is.

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