Martin King makes a case for Mamadou Sakho’s redemption at Liverpool.
Mamadou Sakho was most recently named in Liverpool’s 22-man squad for the 2016/17 season, this after the defender rejected a number of offers to leave the club on loan in the past few days. Although this doesn’t at all guarantee Sakho a return to the first team, it does represent the fact that the Frenchman still has a role to play at Anfield.
Ever since late April, Sakho’s Liverpool career has been tumultuous at best. From being charged by Europe’s football governing body UEFA for failing a drugs test, to missing out on two big cup finals for both club and country due to a preliminary ban, to being separated from his side’s pre-season preparations by his manager, it’s surely been a difficult period for the defender.
However, it’s arguably even more difficult to show him some sympathy. That is because most of the problems he’s faced in the space of five months at Liverpool have all been self-inflicted. UEFA may have got the doping scandal wrong – as the fat-burner Sakho took is reportedly not on their banned drugs list. However, had the former Paris Saint-Germain captain not taken the drug, instead choosing to earn fitness on the training pitch, like any true professional would, both himself and the club (not to mention UEFA) would’ve never had to deal with this issue and the consequences that have followed ever since.
Either way, as things take a turn for the worst, in the same way can they return for the best, which leads us back to Sakho’s inclusion in the Reds’ complete squad for the season.
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The first and most important fact to know and understand here is that Liverpool’s 22-man squad was hand-picked by no one else but the manager Jürgen Klopp. The significance in that, is we already know that the German will not be pushed into keeping a player who he feels doesn’t belong in his side (just ask Mario, he’ll tell you).
Every one of the 22 men who will be representing the club this season have a role to play, according to Klopp, and the Reds boss is a firm believer in their respective abilities.
That, obviously, includes Sakho. Despite attracting attention to himself for all the wrong reasons, the defender can still feed off of that belief, however little there is left in Klopp after the past five months. Recently, former Reds striker Neil Mellor wrote a piece for the Liverpool Echo expressing the opinion that Sakho could offer his manager an option for his side’s troubled left-back position. Mellor was spot on as the Frenchman is left-footed and does indeed have the experience to play in the position, his solidity would be a welcomed addition down the flank.
But, surely that’s not all the 26-year-old will be good for. A rewind back to the early months of the year, before he was charged by UEFA, would suggest that Sakho was possibly enjoying his most fruitful period as a Reds player. His combination strength off the ball and style on it made him a regular in the starting line-up and his infectious character kept both the team dressing room and the Anfield faithful buzzing.
So, it’s perhaps only fair to assume that the number 3 still has some unfinished business in Liverpool’s defence and although fellow teammates Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip seem to be forming a strong centre-back partnership, the competition that Sakho could offer would only count as a positive.
I rephrase the initial point, if Jürgen Klopp felt as though the defender had nothing good at all to offer to his side this season, after watching him reject, what was reportedly, his manager’s advice to switch clubs for at least one season, the German wouldn’t have included Sakho in his 22-man squad – once again, Mario Balotelli is an example of this.
If what is reported by the Mirror, who state that sources in France suggest the defender has vowed to “seduce” the manager with his attitude, is anything to go by, then the French international has taken a good first step towards finally putting the drama behind him and hopefully returning to Liverpool’s first team.
The fact that he rejected multiple chances to go out on loan shows a commitment to his club and a determination to succeed in its red colours. Let’s just hope the man in charge rewards those qualities in due time.