Mamadou Sakho is one of the most beloved figures within the Liverpool dressing room amongst the fans but is also one of the most divisive as well. His almost ‘Bambi-like’ playing style, where he looks like he is going to lose the ball instantly but has telepathic control over where the ball will end up in 70 yards with a trusty swing of his left boot, is both an art form and sometimes inexplicable at the same time. Sakho arrived on Merseyside and was confirmed as Liverpool player on the 2nd of September 2013 from Paris Saint-Germain FC. He came with some fanfare as well as the talent was obvious from the start. A Paris native who captained the side at the young age of 19 to make him the youngest captain the French team had ever had. Over the course of 6 years, Sakho made 151 appearances across all competitions before leaving the now-rich French champions for Brendan Rodger’s Reds.
2013/14 saw the march of Brendan’s Reds towards the Premier League title. The march eventually faltered towards the latter stages of the season but Sakho was a mainstay within that team. His £18m fee was becoming more and more justified as the season progressed and he endeared all Liverpool fans with his uncanny personality and the amount of charity work he did around the city of Liverpool. Despite making a good first impression, Sakho was limited to only 19 appearances as injuries cost him most the season but the impression had been made. In the minds of Liverpool fans, we were looking at the future Captain of Liverpool Football Club and one of the first names on the team sheet. 2014/15 started off on the wrong foot however.
A month into the start of the season and Sakho was left out of the Merseyside Derby on the 27th September 2014. A footballer’s place is not guaranteed in the starting 11 and it is understandable that one would be annoyed if they cannot do the job they are being paid and worked all their life to do but Professionalism is of the utmost within Football. When signing on the dotted line to play for a new team, everything the player does is linked back to the Professionalism of the team and what Sakho did was not something that was taken lightly. Leaving the stadium for any game when you could and should stay to support your team and your friends is one thing, but the occasion on when this event occurred added more fuel to the fire. The Merseyside Derby has lessened in meaning with regards to League standings but the bragging rights trumps all. The game itself finished 1-1 but the sour taste in Liverpool fans’ mouth stuck around for a while. A 90th min equaliser from Jagielka and one of their best players looked to be facing disciplinary action by the club, rightfully so of course. Whether or not Sakho was punished for the debacle is up for debate. He missed the next few games but this was due to an injury according to then Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers.
2015/16 bought optimism back to Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp was bought in at Liverpool to replace Brendan Rodgers. Klopp is known for his personality and his knack to be able to get on with every one of his players. The players of Dortmund and Mainz respectively had nothing but great things to say about the charismatic German. The latter stages of the season saw Liverpool dismantle Everton in the Merseyside Derby and win an awe-inspiring match against Klopp’s former team Borussia Dortmund. Sakho played in both of those matches and then the downhill spiral began. Sakho was found to have a prohibited substance in his body after a random drugs test was done on the Frenchman after Liverpool drew 1-1 with Man Utd in the Europa League. Higanamine was the substance found in Sakho’s system and is usually found in Fat-Burners. Fat-Burners have been known to hide other substances such as Steroids hence the reason they are on the banned substance list. Sakho was banned by Liverpool and later banned by UEFA due to this breach. As it turned out, WADA’s (World Anti-Doping Agency) hypothesis on Sakho’s usage of Higanamine in Fat-Burners was very vague which led to the case being thrown out but the damage had already been done. Liverpool lost the final of the Europa League and Sakho’s reputation had been tarnished.
After the Drug situation had come to light, Nike suspended all ties with Mamadou Sakho. This was hugely controversial as Sakho was later cleared of having committed any drug offence by WADA and UEFA themselves yet the decision by Nike stood. This while Maria Sharapova’s admission to the usage of drugs was acknowledged by Nike but no tie severance occurred.
Trying to put this whole Drug Breach problem behind him for 2016/17, Liverpool fans hoped Sakho would find his way back into the fray and back into Klopp’s good books. Liverpool purchased Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan in this time so 2 spaces were being fought for between 4 men, with the 4th man being Dejan Lovren. But, before the season had even kicked off, Sakho was sent home by Klopp during the California part of the US Tour. Liverpool fans loved Sakho’s SnapChat stories and his little videos on Liverpool’s Twitter and YouTube channel but we are somewhat desensitised to what impact this can have on management and on the players themselves.Professionalism is a word that could be used again and is something that Klopp evidently thought that Sakho lacked when deciding to send him back home. One moment that springs to mind is when Sakho interrupted Klopp mid-interview using his Go-Pro Camera. Klopp made a tongue-in-cheek comment about how he should send “Mama” home because he was late to the plane and late to a dinner between all the staff of Liverpool Football Club. At the time, based on Klopp’s personality and demeanour,this was not read into much but the words held weight when Klopp sent Sakho home a few days later. Despite this, Sakho was given an upgrade on his squad number from 17 to 3 which showed the confidence Liverpool had in the talented Frenchman but, again, the decline furthered.
One of the most beloved things about Mamadou Sakho is his ability to just connect with the fans. Calling Liverpool “Liverpool Country” instead of City was something that all Liverpool fans enjoyed. Whether it was a mistake or an implicit meaning behind it, Liverpool fans warmed to Sakho even more so than before. But Social Media is something that has got players into trouble in the past. Klopp had dropped Sakho from the Liverpool team as he was not “fit or ready” for game time but Sakho, again lack of Professionalism springs to mind, decided to go on a rant on his SnapChat at 3am in the morning. Stating how “he is fit to play games” and “they don’t want him to play in the segonde (second) team lol”. This as well as various other messages denouncing what Klopp had stated to the Media regarding Sakho’s standings within the team. This created an obvious gap between the two and is obvious now how Sakho barely gets any game time for the U23 team, never mind the first team.
As of writing this piece, it has become apparent that Klopp will NOT sell a first team player this January Transfer Window but where does that leave Sakho? He is not part of the 1st team and does not even look like he is training with them. There are whispers of his appearance in U23 games but that is it. Not even for cup competitions is Sakho considered for a place. It is looking nailed on that he will leave in January for hopefully greener pastures. Klopp was quoted by various media outlets saying “Now you know,I said it: he is not in these plans for the first team” in reference to Sakho. So where will Mamadou Sakho go and will it leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Liverpool fans? There would be various suitors in the Premier League for Sakho if he was to stay in England but there has always been interest abroad for the powerful Frenchman, Roma springs to mind having tried for him in the past. Sakho was always a Cult Hero, maybe not to everyone’s taste based on playing style but his personality endeared him to LFC fans. At the end of the day, Klopp is the manager of Liverpool Football Club (a very good one at that!) and he knows what is best for the club moving forward. It is looking increasingly like Sakho will not be at Liverpool to experience that move forward.
Personally, I wish him the best as Sakho was always just a likeable person. Whether it be the fact that other fans did not rate him highly yet consistently put in good performances when needed or if it was just his personality.Whatever it was, it worked for me and I enjoyed his tenure as a Liverpool player. Best of luck to Mama and YNWA.