LONDON • Daniel Sturridge has delivered an impassioned defence of his commitment to Liverpool, insisting he is content at the club, hurt by accusations he lacks the appetite to play and "devastated" whenever sidelined through injury.
The Liverpool striker made a rare appearance on Wednesday to preview the club's Europa League round-of-32, second-leg tie against Augsburg - the first match having finished goal-less - alongside the manager Juergen Klopp.
Sturridge's appearances on the pitch over the past 18 months have been limited by a succession of injuries that have prompted criticism not only of his fitness but willingness to play through the pain barrier.
Klopp himself has previously suggested the 26-year-old needs to learn "what is serious pain and what is only pain".
Sturridge claimed he does not read any criticism aired on social media, despite being active on Twitter and Instagram, and denied recent reports that he wants to leave Liverpool at the end of the season.
"Of course it's been a difficult time being injured," he said. "But it's part of football and I'm now looking forward to the future with Liverpool. There is not really much to stress or worry about. I have been pretty relaxed the whole time and I am happy here."
IT HURTS NOT PLAYING FOOTBALL
Of course I want to be on the pitch playing in every game and it hurts not being able to play. You have to be strong in those situations. I'm not at home chilling, I'm not out with friends living life to the full. I'm not happy, I'm sitting in the stands or at home devastated at watching my team-mates play.
DANIEL STURRIDGE, Liverpool striker, on his frustration with injuries.
Several former Liverpool players have questioned the striker's commitment during the past two, injury-plagued seasons.
One rumour started on social media was that Sturridge was reluctant to play for religious reasons. The forward, who has made only nine appearances this season, responded: "It's all surprising to be honest. I didn't know religion had anything to do with football.
"As a child you don't think of those things. To say a player doesn't want to play is the biggest disrespect ever to any footballer and it's astonishing. It's very disappointing whoever was saying it.
"It's football and of course people are entitled to opinions but all I can say is I don't think anyone will understand how much it means to me to play football."
He has suffered hip, knee, foot and thigh problems in recent months and insisted the constant setbacks have been hard to take.
"Of course I want to be on the pitch playing in every game and it hurts not being able to play," he said. "You have to be strong in those situations.
"I'm not at home chilling, I'm not out with friends living life to the full. I'm not happy, I'm sitting in the stands or at home devastated at watching my team-mates play.
"It hurts hearing second and third hand what people say. I'd say a lot of them aren't saying the truth. All I want to do is help this team have success - that's the most important thing, nothing else matters."