Daniel Sturridge could be heading for the Chelsea exit door as his relationship with the club continues to deteriorate.
Sturridge has yet to start a match for the European champions this season after being offered on loan to a number of Premier League clubs in the summer.
The England international failed to make the substitutes’ bench for the 2-2 Champions League draw against Juventus on Wednesday after pulling out late on with what Roberto Di Matteo claimed was a minor hamstring injury.
Although the Chelsea manager said “he won’t be out for long”, and there is no suggestion the injury was not genuine, doubts are thought to be growing among the coaching staff regarding Sturridge’s attitude.
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The 23-year-old is unhappy at falling down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge since Di Matteo replaced Andre Villas-Boas at the helm and spoke of his "hurt" at his exclusion from England’s Euro 2012 squad after losing his regular club spot in the final months of last season.
He has been used almost exclusively on the flanks at Chelsea rather than in his preferred central striker position and, after his form deteriorated, he was an unused substitute in both the Champions League and FA Cup finals.
Sturridge has entered the penultimate year of his contract, which expires in 2014, and the club have been reluctant to extend his £65,000-a-week deal, even though he scored 13 goals last season and made his international bow. He remains part of the senior England setup and came off the bench for Roy Hodgson’s team in their 1-1 draw with Ukraine last week.
Liverpool tried to sign the forward on loan as Brendan Rodgers desperately tried to strengthen his squad in the final 24 hours of the transfer window but Sturridge said he was only interested in a permanent move.
Despite Fernando Torres’ inconsistency and the summer departures of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Romelu Lukaku on loan, Sturridge has made only five substitute appearances for Chelsea this season.
Uncertainty over his future comes at a time when Chelsea have an abundance of attacking midfield options but have Sturridge as the only senior central striker to cover for Torres.
Chelsea value the former Manchester City man around the £12 million mark and could be ready to cash in during the January window for the right offer.
However, some of the proceeds of any sale will go to the Premier League champions. City negotiated a 15 per cent sell-on clause when they sold their former Academy star to Stamford Bridge in 2009.