Mamadou Sakho has just finalised his move away from Liverpool to Crystal Palace, for a 6 month loan (with a £2m fee) with a potential fee believed to be around £20m. Sakho endured a turbulent 2016, being banned for months due to illegal substance abuse allegations (later cleared by UEFA), losing in the Europa League final to Sevilla, then being disgraced by manager Jurgen Klopp. The recent move to Palace is an attempt to revive his career, but how successful will he be?
Hours after joking with Jurgen Klopp whilst at a trip to Alcatraz, Sakho was sent home because Klopp was unhappy with Sakho missing his flight, then turning up late for a meal and finally interrupting Klopp in an interview. Following this, he was demoted to train with the Under 23’s and only made sporadic appearances with the likes of Danny Ings (before his injury), Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ovie Ejaria.
Sakho became a cult hero for the Reds since his signing from Paris Saint-Germain for £18m in the summer of 2014. Shortly after his arrival it was reported that Sakho had broken gym equipment and upon questioning, he played it down, saying “Something went wrong with it, so they had to fix it” however Brendan Rodgers (then manager) decided to use the media attention to give him a new nickname… The Beast. Sakho was in and out of the team, but grew as a player under Klopp and formed a formidable partnership with Dejan Lovren, as the centre-back pairing beat Manchester United and tournament favourites Dortmund on the way to the Europa League final in Basel.
Sakho is a left-footed centre-back but has occasionally played on the left hand side of defence. He can play as a traditional centre-back, who’s job is to clear the ball and ensure no-one gets past him, however under Klopp he learned how to play with the ball at his feet and his ability to pass added a new, modern edge to his game. Sakho is 6″2, suggesting he has aerial prowess and is still 26, meaning he can still have a minimum of 4-7 years at the highest level.
Sakho also has pedigree on an international stage. Sakho has made appearances in every France Youth Team from the U16’s-U21’s, suggesting confidence in him from a young age. He also featured for France at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and in the lead up to the finals, he played 14 games, winning 9 (64% win rate). He has 28 international caps to his name, making his debut for Les Bleus at the age of 20 under Didier Deschamps, scoring two goals in the process. This experience adds a new dimension to the Palace back line as Van Aanholt, Damien Delaney, Scott Dann and James Tomkins have 15 full international caps between them.
The figures suggest that Sakho should be a good signing for Palace, and will help sure up the back line which has been leaking goals this season, as they have conceded 41 goals, fourth highest in the league. The centre-back partnership of Damien Delaney and Scott Dann doesn’t seem to be working, with the pair making a total number of 29 blocks, with Hull centre-back Curtis Davies making 35 alone. Putting steel in the back line will surely help seal that leak.
Ultimately, in my opinion as a Liverpool supporter, if I had to say he was going to be a success or a failure, I would say he will be a failure. This is because Sakho grew under Klopp because Klopp spent time with him and developed Sakho to learn Klopp’s play style. With Allardyce football can be ugly, and they are in a dog-fight to win games, not giving Sakho the time to adjust on the pitch to Allardyce’s play. Sakho is a funny, likable player and Big Sam, in a relegation battle, is not. With these contrasting personalities, it’ll make it harder for Sakho to progress as a player. Lastly, I believe Sakho will not work because of his lack of game time and match fitness. Sakho has not played at the top level since the end of last season and making the transition again, will be hard. Whether or not Sakho would be worth the future £20m fee, is up for his performances to decide. Saying this, I will not rule out the fact that Sakho could rise again to be a cult superstar for The Eagles, he is certainly an upgrade on Delaney and Dann and if he works out, he would have certainly revived his career.