He’s severely underdone and can barely get out of third gear, but former Liverpool star Daniel Sturridge could end up playing a key role in the race for the A-League Men premiers plate.
Sturridge showcased his class by setting up Bruno Fornaroli’s first-half goal in Perth Glory’s 1-1 draw with Western Sydney on Saturday night.
The match was Sturridge’s first start in more than two years, and he showed flashes of brilliance in his 45-minute display before being subbed off at halftime.
Although his class with the ball was a cut above, his lack of fitness was glaring.
Sturridge, playing his first match since tearing his groin on February 23, clearly held himself back whenever the opportunity to sprint at full pace presented itself.
But when the chance came to show off his skills, Sturridge shone.
Glory have one more match to go before their wooden spoon campaign comes to an end – Wednesday night’s home clash with ladder leaders Melbourne City.
If Sturridge pulls up well from the Wanderers game and is cleared to face the champions, he could thwart their bid to win the premiers plate.
City, who have two more games to play, currently sit one point ahead of Melbourne Victory and two points clear of Western United.
“We have to see how he recovers and see how he pulls up,” Zadkovich said of Sturridge.
“If we can use him, we’ll use him, and he’ll be a key figure around the squad.”
Zadkovich was pleased with Sturridge’s ability to contribute despite not being anywhere close to full fitness.
“Obviously, he was lacking fitness severely, and it shows,” Zadkovich said.
“If you go back and look at the clips of what he’s done in the past and look at where he’s at now, they’re miles apart to be honest.
“But his mentality and his quality around the ball were there for everyone to see.”
“He still had enough quality to create two really good opportunities tonight for us. Imagine what he would do fully fit.”
During his time in Australia, Sturridge has been cut down by COVID-19, been forced to endure multiple isolation periods, and has also been ravaged by injuries.
Zadkovich was proud of the way the 32-year-old had been able to fight through adversity.
“It’s been a very challenging time for him and a very difficult period for his playing career,” Zadkovich said.
“So it was nice for him on a personal level to go out there and be able to express himself again.”
Glory chief executive Tony Pignata has already said the club are unlikely to re-sign Sturridge for next season.