Liverpool legend John Barnes is confident Daniel Sturridge will come good after overcoming his injury problems and has backed the attacker to become a key figure at Anfield again.
Sturridge has been plagued by injuries over the past 18 months and has made just nine appearances in all competitions in 2015-16.
The 26-year-old recently made his comeback to action and scored in the recent 6-0 win at Aston Villa, before this week lashing out at “astonishing” claims that he did not want to play at times.
“I would always be careful with Daniel. It’s maybe not a typical way of looking at things, but with Daniel’s history with injuries we have to leave it up to him to tell us when he feels he’s ready to play,” Barnes told the Liverpool Echo.
“If he says he’s injured, then he’s injured. We can’t tell him otherwise. Daniel isn’t necessarily different to anybody else, but football is different now. Phil Neal played for six years without missing a game in the 1970s and 80s, but he’d have missed a game in the modern era, for certain.
“In the old days the physio and the manager would maybe say ‘do you want to give it a go?’ But in Daniel’s case you have to leave it up to him. You have to trust him.
“I believe he’s hungry enough. He’s a young boy who wants to play football. But he has to do it for himself.”
Liverpool have been heavily reliant on Philippe Coutinho during Sturridge’s absence and Barnes believes the striker’s return will benefit the Brazil international.
“What was apparent to me watching the game against Aston Villa recently was that the burden of creativity which has been on Coutinho’s shoulders for so long has been lifted,” he added.
“We have Roberto Firmino now, who is coming good, and of course Sturridge too. So whereas before it was all up to Coutinho, now we have some help for him.
“Liverpool don’t have lots of great individuals at the moment, so when they do have one really good player, they tend to rely heavily on them. I think we relied too heavily on Coutinho for creativity, but having Sturridge and Firmino in the side with him helps hugely.”