Daniel Sturridge's latest injury woe signals end of time at Liverpool
Daniel Sturridge's injury picked up within three minutes of West Bromwich Albion's defeat at Chelsea on Monday night is the latest in a long list of fitness problems that have stunted the striker's potentially world-class career.
Having been short of opportunities at Liverpool this season, Sturridge believed a move was only the chance to keep alive his chance of securing a place in England's World Cup squad.
The fact that Liverpool were willing to let the striker depart last month raised eyebrows, considering they had already lost another attacking player in Philippe Coutinho, weeks before. However, the reality of Liverpool only receiving loan offers for a 28-year-old was more startling.
Premier League clubs and other European teams -- understandably, in hindsight -- were unwilling to take the risk of signing Sturridge on a permanent basis. Liverpool would have been happy to sanction a sale had they received a suitable offer for a player who, for all his problems, still boasts a strike rate of virtually a goal every two league games (48 goals in 98 appearances).
Indeed, only temporary moves were on the cards -- Newcastle United, Sevilla, Inter Milan all enquired last month before Birmingham-born Sturridge decided on a return to the Midlands.
In need of goals to help the Baggies avoid relegation, West Brom manager Alan Pardew's "Hail Mary" move was to sign Sturridge, carrying his £120,000-a-week wages while paying Liverpool a £2 million loan fee.
In fairness, Pardew could see the upside in signing Sturridge, a player who has scored 74 goals in the top flight for four different clubs and who started all three of England's games at the last World Cup. But the reality of the striker's unreliability will be beginning to bite.
According to injury experts Physio Room, on Monday Sturridge suffered his 31st separate injury since signing for Liverpool in January 2013. His withdrawal was brought on by his eighth hamstring problem in that time, although that is only half the number of hip complaints he's had over the same period.
Pardew is left hoping for the best following Monday's setback, believing Sturridge suffered a muscle strain rather than a tear. However, according to the Baggies boss, Sturridge is still set to miss West Brom's FA Cup fifth-round tie with Southampton. A return for the crucial home league game against relegation rivals Huddersfield Town on Feb. 24 also seems unlikely.
The "couple of weeks" Sturridge is expected to miss is a significant part of West Brom's season. Lying bottom of the Premier League table and seven points adrift from safety, West Brom's fate may well be sealed before Sturridge's return, which would virtually mean no return on investment.
The loan move to The Hawthorns more than likely signals the end of Sturridge's time at Liverpool, but other teams will continue have their reservations in the summer when he returns to Merseyside and enters the final 12 months of his contract. A move that Sturridge would desire may be hard to come by as a result.
But there is a sorry personal side to Sturridge's situation. His devastated look as he trudged off the Stamford Bridge turf on Monday night served as a reminder that it is he who is most affected by the frequent injuries. No player enjoys injuries, especially one who is so familiar with the long road of recovery.
With England manager Gareth Southgate in attendance on Monday, Sturridge knows that the opportunity to play in what would very likely be his last World Cup is fading fast. There has never been a question about his talent, but there is no point of having that talent if you are unable to use it. Sturridge knows that all too well.
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.