Despite the fact that Daniel Sturridge has been banned from any and all soccer activities until June, the rumor mill has not slowed in linking the former England forward with a move to Major League Soccer.
It's certainly not a crazy concept. Sturridge remains a very talented attacker with a good range of skills, he owns a home in Los Angeles and any team approaching or matching the $1.5 million salary he was getting paid by erstwhile employers Trabzonspor could fit him in as a TAM signing.
That all begs the question of which MLS club could offer the best landing spot. With most teams already well set up top, there are only a handful of reasonable answers. However, existing conditions make some of those rather iffy.
For instance, the Houston Dynamo might make a nice destination — but adding him probably only works if Mauro Manotas finally makes an exit to Mexico or Europe. Meanwhile, the thought of him flitting around the LA Galaxy offense between Chicharito, Aleksandar Katai and Cristian Pavon is mouth-watering (and he'd be able to sleep in his own bed when they're at home), but they lack the defensive solidity to allow for the formation change slotting him in would require. Maybe he'd go for being a spot starter and off-the-bench "joker" in his adopted hometown, but maybe not.
So then who's left as the most suitable destinations? Four clubs immediately spring to mind.
Naturally, Atlanta United may have already found a solution for covering (at least to some extent) the harsh loss of Josef Martinez. And obviously, if they did eventually turn to Sturridge come summer, he's not going to be able to fully replicate the brand of play Martinez brings to the team.
That said, Sturridge does have attributes that could help restore Atlanta to legit title contender status. Like Martinez, he'll use his motor to give defenders a hard day at the office, drops deep to aid the build and has the technique to make plays on the run. Unlike Martinez, he will roam to wide channels looking for space. That habit combined with excellent vision and passing touch would allow him to act as a semi-false 9, playing in darting runners Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez.
Chicago Fire FC
Any club in a rebrand phase like Chicago Fire FC is going to be hungry for excitement and success. Bringing Sturridge on board could provide an enjoyable lift in each department, even if he's probably not precisely the piece the squad needs most.
While Sturridge may not be the exact component lacking in the Windy City attack, the presence of Robert Berić would allow him the freedom to seek out soft spots in opposing defenses. As such, putting him together with their new No. 9 man, CJ Sapong and the Fire's array of midfield runners should be a fairly tempting idea.
Yes, we all know that the plan at Inter Miami is for the club to splash for a Designated Player striker to arrive in July. We also know the old joke about God chuckling any time one of us silly humans makes a plan. Those plans are ideally made ready to be changed is what I'm getting at, and the expansion side might not be able to get one of the star snipers they'd like.
If striker shopping falls flat, a detour would be in order because, well, goals tend to be important in winning soccer games. I'm not going to pretend to know how boss Diego Alonso might adjust his tactical plan (there's that word again) as the season progresses, but the earliest indication suggests it may revolve around finding more offense. Adding Sturridge to the mix would almost certainly do that.
Imagine that, another expansion team in search of an attack boost. It's a shocker, I know. There's really no getting around the notion that every front liner on the Nashville SC roster that has actually scored in MLS before is probably best-suited to attack the box from a wide channel.
Of course, Sturridge is no dyed in the wool target center forward either. But he can do some business directly in front of goal and, considering his mobility and interplay skills, adding him to a team built to turn defense into getting out on the break might just work a treat.