Mamadou Sakho was exiled from Liverpool country by Jurgen Klopp after numerous misdemeanors. The French centre-back was sent home from the club’s tour of America after turning up late for team meetings and missing a treatment session.
“I have to build a group here and we’ve got to start new here. I thought it maybe made sense for him to fly home to Liverpool.
“We have some rules and we have to respect them – if somebody gives me the feeling they are not respecting it I have to react.”
Klopp’s words when talking about the situation surrounding Sakho’s departure from the tour came across as someone at the end of their tether. Almost as though the German manager was resentful at the player for not making the most of his second chance at the club.
The centre-back has been at the centre of a performance enhancing drug scandal. Initially it was thought he had taken a banned substance before UEFA finally absolved him of such claims, with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) confirming they had chosen not to appeal against the decision.
Despite being cleared of the accusations it was clear Sakho’s relationship with the club had been damaged. He took supplementary diet pills without the clubs consent, meaning all of this could have been prevented had he been honest from the get-go.
Many believed the former Borussia Dortmund manager would look to move Sakho on after the incident. He’s said to be big on trust and once it’s broken it’s hard to get back. However, to the surprise of many, and to the credit of the defender, Klopp appeared to sweep it under the rug.
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The former Paris Saint-Germain defender was given the no.3 number ahead of the new season as the club looked to capitalise on his popularity and marketability amongst supporters.
Although it wasn’t to be. He didn’t get to play a competitive match with the new squad number on his back before Klopp called time on his second chance.
Third Time Lucky for Mamadou Sakho?
Since the pre-season tour the defender has been a bit of a myth. He’s not been seen and he was rarely mentioned. The manager made it clear he wanted him to leave in August, but to the bemusement of management, Sakho rejected the reported advances of West Brom and Sunderland.
He chose to fight for his place but instead was frozen out.
Crystal Palace took the gamble in January to sign the 27 year old. Palace manager Sam Allardyce spoke out about his reservations about the deal before eventually moving ahead with it.
“You're slightly concerned when you take a player in the January window who's been frozen out,” Allardyce said.
“But then again once you've got him fit – and we got him fit really quickly with the way he applied himself – we knew that you can't play that many games for Liverpool and be a bad player.
Certainly the lift he's given us defensively in the two games he's played has been exceptionally good.”
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) March 7, 2017
His involvement with the first-team saw the Eagles keep two consecutive clean sheets for the first time in close to a year. It’s no coincidence either, Sakho has put in dominant performances in wins over both Middlesbrough and West Brom.
The two teams don't have the most potent attacks in the Premier League, with West Brom averaging 1.2 goals and Boro the 0.7 goals per 90 minutes, but a clean sheet is a clean sheet.
Sakho has the second best pass success rate in the entire squad with 83.3 per cent of his 33 passes per 90 minutes finding a teammate. The sample size is small but it's telling. Out of the Palace defenders only Damien Delaney has attempted more passes (39), but his success rate is low at 71 per cent.
The Reds have missed his incisive, progressive passes from defence. Their loss is Palace's gain.
Before you say ‘oh it's only WBA', it is worth noting that Liverpool failed to keep a clean sheet against Tony Pulis' men earlier on in the season, and have kept just the one in their previous five matches against the Baggies.
The former England manager continued: “I'm not criticising Jurgen Klopp whatsoever about the way he runs his club or what sort of discipline he wants but for me I treat each individual differently.
“As for Sakho he hasn't turned up late or not turned up anywhere up to now …”
Granted, he has only been with the club for just over a month but perhaps he's changed his ways? He's a big personality but he's having a positive influence on the Palace squad.
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) March 4, 2017
When Klopp was asked about Sakho's potential return in the summer he didn't rule it out but it was a bit of a stock answer.
“Who knows what happens in half a year? We've already felt what changed in the space of a month. I think he should concentrate on the job at Crystal Palace, we'll concentrate on the job we're doing here.
“In this moment he's on loan and still has a contract at Liverpool. The loan is a solution for this moment. We can wait for new impressions and see what happens.”
But last season Klopp did appear to rate Sakho as a footballer, and as he implies, a lot can change in half a year.
He was one of the standout performers in various matches between October and March. Following on from the German's first game in charge at Anfield, a 1-1 draw with Rubin Kazan, he was vocal in his praise for the defender.
“I can understand why they (the supporters) shouted his name.
“Mama was really spectacular defending and good playing football.”
If Liverpool's defensive woes continue and Sakho carries on his fine form, both on and off of the pitch, for the remainder of the season then calls for his return will intensify. Klopp isn't one to bow to the demands of people but he could be tempted to welcome Sakho back into his squad and it wouldn't be a sign of weakness. If anything it would show he's prepared to put the team before his own feelings.