Joseph Kavaloski explains why a loan move could be the best thing for Mamadou Sakho.
The transfer window closes today and Liverpool is looking to move on a number of fringe players. One player that has been far from a squad player in the past and may be on his way out the door is Mamadou Sakho. Many fans are understandably against sending out one of the team’s best centre-halves on loan with the defensive frailty that has been on display in the Reds’ first four matches. However, a temporary move away could be the best decision for both Liverpool and Sakho.
The Reds currently have three primary centre-halves fighting for the two starting positions: Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, and Ragnar Klavan. Tiago Ilori is another potential option for Jurgen Klopp, but there is a very good chance he won’t be a Liverpool player after today.
Outside of that group of three, Lucas Leiva and Joe Gomez make up the cover in the event of injuries. Both are currently out injured, but Lucas is close to returning and has proven to be a solid centre-half option in an injury crisis. Gomez has not played in almost a year after a knee injury before suffering an Achilles tendon setback, but he too is a fantastic young defender who possesses the versatility to play multiple positions along the backline.
When everyone is fit, the Reds have five quality centre-half options. Sakho is arguably more talented than each, but he would have to jump each of them in the pecking order before receiving any meaningful playing time.
Matip, Lovren, and Klavan are all firmly entrenched and have formed an understanding with one another that Sakho would need to try and replicate. Additionally, the only player Sakho has played with in the past, Dejan Lovren, would likely be the man he would be competing with in the starting eleven. Matip is a right footed player whereas Sakho is left footed, making a Sakho-Matip partnership natural.
Lovren and Matip are likely to be Klopp’s first choice centre-backs for the foreseeable future. This will allow them to form an understanding with one another that is vital for a strong defence.
Sakho would have to not only make a huge impression in training to overtake Lovren (who has been a regular starter since Klopp came to Anfield), but he would also have to earn time on the pitch working with Matip that is unlikely to occur when a player is not in the first team.
Sakho would still need to build up full fitness with a preseason-esque training regimen, learn any changes Klopp has made to his defensive tactics from last season, and then show he is a better choice than the upwards of five players above him. Getting through that gauntlet takes a lot of time – he would likely not return to the starting eleven until November or December at the earliest.
Even if he were to make it through each of those steps to return to match readiness, he would also still need to prove to Klopp that he has learned from his past mistakes which may further prolong his return.
Sakho made a number of poor decisions off the pitch in the past four months that has seen him gradually fall from Klopp’s good books after being one of the first names on the team sheet up until his drug suspension late last year. Not only did the Frenchman take a questionable supplement without telling the club, he also broke multiple team rules when he returned to the team. All of those decisions will likely play on Klopp’s mind when he decides who is in his 18 man squad.
Klopp does not appear to be a manager who plays the political games that Brendan Rodgers did, but there is no question that Sakho’s disciplinary history could play into his thought process. That would be just another factor playing against Sakho in his return.
Not only did the Frenchman take a questionable supplement without telling the club, he also broke multiple team rules when he returned to the team. All of those decisions will likely play on Klopp’s mind when he decides who is in his 18 man squad. Klopp does not appear to be a manager who plays the political games that Brendan Rodgers did, but there is no question that Sakho’s disciplinary history could play into his thought process. That would be just another factor playing against Sakho in his return.
Most would agree that Liverpool’s best centre-back partnership would be Sakho-Matip. However, Klopp has proven, through his usage of Daniel Sturridge, that there are many factors that play into his decision-making and with Sakho’s situation it may take a long time for the Frenchman to check all the boxes.
As a result, Sakho’s best option may be for him to go out on loan where he can regain match fitness by receiving the playing time he needs. Although he has reportedly declined moves to multiple mid-table clubs, Sakho would be well suited to go to a lower level club where he can play every week and prove that he is the same player that was Liverpool’s best defender for large stretches of last season.
Empire of the Kop claims to have insider information that Sunderland will take Sakho on loan, despite the Dail Mail reporting that Sunderland has already rejected the chance to sign him.
If he were to stay, he may not have the ability to make this point and Klopp may end up deciding to sell him rather than letting him attempt to regain match-readiness in the U23 squad where he would be limiting the opportunities of the squad’s young talent. Many fans would be devastated to see Sakho leave even on a temporary basis, but it may be the best option for Sakho to regain his place in the starting eleven in the long term.