???️ Mamadou Sakho: The story so far, and is there a way back?

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In the last 12 months or so, Mamadou Sakho has had quite the rocky ride at Liverpool and elsewhere. Never away from the limelight for too long, there have been plenty of incidents where the French centre-back has gotten himself into the sporting headlines. The issues for him began at the beginning of May last year, when he was given an initial 30 day suspension by UEFA for failing a drugs test. It was shocking news at the time but apparently after the Dortmund game he was selected for a random drugs test and he tested positive for a fat burner. He missed the end of the 2015/16 season. He missed the 2016 Europa League final. But that was just the beginning for our Mamadou. As well all know, the whole drugs thing turned out to be a massive fuck-up on UEFA’s part. Days after the final, it was discovered the drug in question was NOT on the banned list and by the time Euro 2016 had begun, the entire case had been dismissed. But that STILL wasn’t really the end for Sakho, because by summer, his reputation had been further thwarted by the story of him being sent home from Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the United States. After missing a flight and a team meal, and also interrupting an interview with Klopp for his ???vlog’, he was sent home and told to sort his attitude. Now we don’t know what happens behind closed doors, but it appears that whatever issues there were have never been resolved. In fact, they were made worse in several incidents where the player really didn’t help himself. In September, Sakho appeared to go on some sort of crazy (perhaps drunken) Snapchat rant where he addressed the matter of him not being involved in any matchday squads at the beginning of the 2016/17 season. In the rant he declared he had been free from injury for weeks and claimed that the club were ???lying’ about his situation. His reasoning behind the escapade was that he thought ???fans deserve to know the truth’. It was a very bizarre ordeal. Until January, Sakho only played competitive football with the reserves and was then loaned out to Crystal Palace where he was really impressing until he got himself injured and had to be recalled. Let’s not also forget he caused more of a ruckus when Palace visited Anfield in late April. Despite being ineligible to play vs his parent club, he still chose to sit on the bench with the squad and staff, and even chose to celebrate a Christian Benteke equaliser shortly before half-time, much to the dismay of the Anfield crowd around him. And that’s pretty much a summary of everything that’s happened so far. Now we face another season where Sakho is in limbo at Anfield, and it’s becoming a growing problem. Palace were keen to sign him permanently but after the injury it’s all gone quiet. So the question is- will he manage to make his way back into the Liverpool first-team setup? Probably not, but there are scenarios where it could happen. Virgil van Dijk is supposedly on his way to Anfield but despite the transfer request being handed in recently, there are still hurdles to clear before that’s a done deal. There is still every chance that Southampton could refuse to sell to us, and with the lack of other targets we reportedly have in that area, and Klopp’s ???we don’t need another centre-back’ claims the other day, no move for Van Dijk could well mean no move for any centre-back whatsoever. So that leaves us with 4 centre-backs in the squad. Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren, Ragnar Klaven and Joe Gomez. We will also play in 4 competitions overall this season, potentially racking up over 50 games between August and May. I believe that if we don’t either sign Van Dijk or bring Sakho back into the picture, there could be trouble for us next season. One injury and one suspension and suddenly the numbers are looking thin and James Milner is playing centre-back. It’s not ideal at all. For me, we need the 5th. Whether that be Van Dijk or Sakho. So, how do we rate his chances? Well, he has been training on his own for the entire pre-season, but of course he has been injured and that obviously requires different training criteria to all the fully match-fit players in the squad. However, the last time Klopp discussed the situation in a press conference was rather encouraging from the player’s point of view. The quote below is taken from July 13th and appears not to rule Sakho out from a return to the first team in the future. “First of all he needs to get 100% fit and then we will see.” Encouraging? Or just an answer designed to keep fans off his back? I feel it will be the latter. My honest opinion to this whole debate is that it won’t need to be an issue because we will sign Virgil Van Dijk. Once that’s done, Sakho will be moved on. What I’m struggling to understand is why Sakho is not being used as bait in the deal for Van Dijk itself. The Saints are reportedly reluctant to sell to us due to the previous controversies in the saga, but the offering of literally a direct replacement would surely help bring us back into the picture? It baffles me, but maybe it will come to fruition. All-in-all, I think it’s highly unlikely that we will see Sakho in a Liverpool shirt again. I think the reason he properly fucked it was the Snapchat saga. Perhaps he was being treated slightly unfairly, but he was an absolute buffoon to go public about what was going on behind closed doors. The only way he can hope for a way back in is if we fail to sign Van Dijk or any other centre-back, and then we get some horrific long-term injury crisis to Matip or Lovren. It might even take both of those players to be out for a substantial period in order for him to get a look-in, with Ragnar Klaven and Joe Gomez both higher in Klopp’s pecking order as things stand. He’s a good enough player for most Premier League sides, if I were him, I would be asking Klopp where he fits into his plans and asking for a move away if he’s not going to get minutes, because it’s getting to a point where it’s starting to affect his career. He’s becoming a forgotten man at Anfield, and no one wants to end up like the Dani Pacheco’s and Jose Enrique’s of the world. And now, with rumours that he could be the subject of a club-record bid from West Brom, it’s looking increasingly likely that by September he’ll no longer be with us. All we can hope for is that was get our £30million and move him on. He won’t go down as a brilliant signing, but he certainly won’t go down as our worst through recent years. After all, we’ll always have his contribution to the comeback vs Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League in 2016.   By Ben Kelly
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