This is the first part of a series detailing some of the finest partnerships Liverpool Football Club has ever seen and where better to start than the new-look SAS, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
The two players only found themselves together for one full season at Anfield, and although it ended in disappointment, it will go down fondly in the memories of LFC fans due to some of the sumptuous football that was on display and spearheaded by SAS.
The two players came from very different backgrounds; Sturridge came from a footballing family (his dad and two uncles), and he joined Aston Villa at the age of seven. Suarez on the other hand, had to overcome enormous odds to reach European football – only joining a professional team at the age of 14. You can see the trials that Suarez has had to overcome in his game – his tenacity, and at times, aggression are on display for the world to see.
Since making their professional debuts the players’ paths to Melwood differed greatly. Sturridge, a highly coveted poacher who finally found his feet at Anfield having previously been on the books at two of the country’s other heavyweights. Suarez took the long road, plying his trade in his native Uruguay for Nacional before moving on to Holland with Groningen at 19. As is usually the case, Ajax came knocking after a successful campaign in the Eredivisie. After managing 81 goals in just 110 games, Liverpool moved in for El Pistolero and he quickly made his mark by scoring the Reds second in a 2-0 win against Stoke after coming off the bench.
But the real magic from the pair came in Suarez’s last season at the club.
The deadly duo formed a formidable partnership, the sort you rarely see on a pitch between such different players, as the Reds ultimately fell short of a sought of a Premier League title.
As impressive as they were together, many forget that Suarez missed the beginning of the season due to suspension and that it was down to Sturridge to stand in for El Pistolero. The former Chelsea man didn’t disappoint as he managed four goals in the opening five league games – scoring the only goal in three games that ended 1-0.
When Suarez returned from his ban he was visibly not 100%, but managed two goals upon his return (both assisted by Sturridge, who scored a goal of his own in the 3-1 win). What was to come will go down as one of the most deadly striking partnerships the Premier League has (or will) ever seen.
With only half a season together it was surprising just how well the two worked together, always occupying the same wavelength, and if one was scoring, the pass usually came from the other.
At the same time though, there was always a hint of a rivalry between the two. If one got his name on the score sheet, the second had to follow suit. Countless kisses of the wrist and wavy arms were seen across the country.
But the rivalry was always for the benefit of the team. If one scored, the other would take their game to another level and, where possible, they always tried to help each other get on the score sheet (provided their name was on it already). In the midst of Liverpool’s 11 game win streak, the Reds faced Cardiff City, and won the match 6-3. But this match is a shining example of the two helping each other. Suarez scored the Reds’ first to cancel out Jordan Mutch’s earlier goal but not too long after Cardiff took the lead again through Frazier Campbell.
Two Skrtel goals on either side of half time gave the Reds a 3-2 lead. Shortly after the second half started, Sturridge showed his almost telepathic relationship with Suarez to back-heel the ball across the six-yard line as if he knew Suarez would be there to tap in his second of the game, and fifteen minutes later Suarez returned the favour – gifting his partner in crime a much deserved goal.
For much of the season the pair battled each other at the top of the goalscoring charts, but eventually Suarez reached another level that his teammate just couldn’t keep up with. Truthfully, no-one could keep up with Suarez when it came to goals. His 31 bettered the next players tally by 10 – and the man on 21 was his closest rival/teammate, Daniel Sturridge.
The numbers scream that of title winners, but ultimately, it wasn’t meant to be. Chelsea proved too much even for this pair to overcome, and we all know what came next. Suarez’s tears at Selhurst Park showed just how much he gave that season.
After just 18 months together, Suarez left Anfield and Sturridge behind for one of Europe’s most deadly trios alongside Messi and Neymar at the Camp Nou. Although Sturridge is unlikely to reach the levels he set back in 2013/14, there have been promising signs this season that he can be a useful squad member.
Ultimately, it was the duo who dragged a fairly average squad to within touching distance of the Premier League title, and although they failed to do so, their influence should not be overlooked.
Together the pair plundered 56 goals and 21 assists, in all competitions (52 and 19 coming in the league).
Even though their time ended in despair, it is the moments of brilliance that should be remembered – that is their legacy.