LONDON (AFP) - Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge has said suggestions he doesn't want to play for the Merseyside club are "astonishing and disappointing".
Sturrige's commitment to the Anfield club has been called into question during two years where his career has been blighted by injuries, with some even suggesting his religious beliefs were influencing his lack of availability.
But the 26-year-old, who has featured in Liverpool's last three games after two months out with a hamstring problem, said suggestions he was taking the Reds for a ride were way wide of the mark.
"To say a player doesn't want to play is the biggest disrespect you could ever say to a footballer," he said ahead of Liverpool's Europa League tie against Augsburg at Anfield on Thursday.
"I think it is astonishing, disappointing - whoever is saying it - but that's football and people are entitled to their opinions.
"I would probably say a lot of the things people say about me aren't true.
"I don't listen to social media... I didn't know religion had anything to do with football."
"I don't think anyone will understand how much it means to me to play football and I'll continue to do my best and focus on Liverpool."
England international Sturridge had appeared in a mere nine matches since April last year, when a hip problem led to him undergoing surgery in New York and has spent more time on the sidelines than being available for first-team duty after joining Liverpool from Chelsea in 2013.
However, he said fans' frustration with his injury record was nothing compared to his own.
"I am very ambitious, very determined to help Liverpool have success; I'm totally focused and of course I want to be on the pitch every game playing like every player and it hurts not to be playing," Sturridge said.
"I am not someone who will be laughing and joking, going out with my friends living life to the fullest when I am not playing.
"I am at home, not enjoying life and not stress-free. I am devastated to be sitting in the stands watching my team-mates play."
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, alongside Sturridge, was pleased by the forward's comments ahead of the second leg of the last-32 tie against Augsburg which is level at 0-0.
"I agree with everything he said," said Klopp. "It was interesting to hear what you asked. He was completely relaxed and you (the media) were more excited than the player but it is good because a few things are more clear now.
"That is what we needed: to hear from him not second-hand," the German manager added.
Liverpool have just a three-day turnaround after their European encounter before they face Manchester City in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday but Klopp said there would be no lack of effort on Thursday.
"It is an opportunity to prove (yourself) for Sunday. That is how it should be," he added. "We have to show we are able to be 100 per cent concentrated on this game and then we can look at the final."