Daniel Sturridge believes he is the best striker at Liverpool but insists he does not take it personally when he is left out by manager Jurgen Klopp.
The England international has two goals from his last two Premier League appearances after failing to score in his first 10 this season, but he has found regular opportunities in the starting line-up limited.
Sturridge has only started seven times in all competitions this term and there has been speculation that he could leave Anfield during the transfer window, with West Ham reportedly interested.
The 27-year-old is adamant that he does not resent Klopp for his decisions but admits spending time among the substitutes can be frustrating for an “ambitious” player.
“I don’t feel as though I’m the right person to be saying whether I should be an automatic pick or not,” he told Sky Sports ahead of his side’s clash with Manchester United on Sunday. “That’s down to the manager and his staff.
“It hurts inside but it’s part of the game, every player past and present has dealt with the things I’m going through now. So it’s not time to get the violin out, you’ve got to dig in, fight, show your character, put your best foot forward when you’re put on a football pitch and give your all when you’re not.
“Then, when you come on, you’ve got to do your best, it’s simple. There are no qualms or complaints from my side. I believe I’m the best striker Liverpool has, that’s my opinion. The manager and everyone else is entitled to their opinion as well.
“You have to have self-belief, though. It’s the manager that picks the team so if, at that specific moment he doesn’t feel I’m the best striker for the job, that’s his decision. I have to take it on the chin, I cannot be upset about it. You have to take the rough with the smooth in football, you can never take things personally.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 13, 2017
“I’m an ambitious player, an ambitious person. I want to be the best, I want to be known as the best striker and help my team win trophies. I would be lying if I said I was happy on the bench, no one wants to sit on the bench. But it’s down to the manager to pick the team.
“If he chooses not to select me I can’t take it personally because it could affect my performance, and when it affects your performance your attitude is called into question, not the fact you’ve been on the bench. If I can start every game I’m happy. If I’m on the bench I’m an unhappy man, but it won’t affect my performance.”
Sturridge scored 25 goals from 30 starts in his first full season with Liverpool in 2013-14 but has struggled to replicate that form since, thanks largely due to a succession of injury problems.
The former Chelsea man believes the chance to play 90 minutes on more occasions would have helped to improve his stats over the last three seasons but has denied suggestions that he is unwilling to ‘play through the pain’ for his club.
“It was a great season [in 2013-14] but it’s not been hard to follow that, it’s a case of starting games regularly and being on the pitch week in, week out,” he said.
“That’s nothing towards any manager I’ve worked with, every player likes to start games because it’s hard to come on and have an impact as a substitute. When you start games, that’s when you can judge and critique yourself more. At the end of the season, you look at your appearances and it doesn’t say starts and subs, it just says appearances.
“I’ve played many games for Liverpool. Last season I played a lot, finished the top scorer in all competitions. Last season, regardless of the number of games I played, I still would do my best on the pitch, that is what’s important.
“Every player has their heart on their sleeve, they’ll battle through injuries. I’ve played on many injuries before: knocks, tears, everything. It’s about pushing yourself to your limits for the club and I feel I’ve done that.”
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