The curious case of Mamadou Sakho as former Liverpool defender faces career crossroads
For a man who once enjoyed almost cult hero-like status on the Kop, Mamadou Sakho has endured a rollercoaster career.
As the Paris-born centre back turns 30 today he should be in the prime years of what looked a promising career when he was captaining Paris Saint-Germain at the age of 17.
Now he finds himself down the pecking order at Selhurst Park after only making eight appearances so far this season behind the first choice pairing of Gary Cahill and James Tomkins.
Indeed, the defender has featured just twice for France since 2015, despite being a regular international during his time at Anfield.
How did his starting role at Liverpool lead to battling for a place in a struggling Palace team and in the international wilderness?
Put simply, discipline.
Sakho became a important member of the Liverpool backline following his £18m move from PSG in 2013, as he was a ever present in Liverpool‘s 2013/2014 title race as well as part of the back three formation Brendan Rodgers reverted to following a disappointing first half of the 2014/2015 season.
Under Jurgen Klopp the French international added consistency to his game which included a outstanding performance away at Old Trafford to secure a 3-1 aggregate win over Manchester United in March 2016.
This was followed by his most well remembered moment in a reds shirt with his goal against Dortmund in the astonishing 4-3 victory at Anfield
The cameras on the pitch caught Sakho and Dejan Lovren exchange motivating words in French to jeer each other up like brothers in arms at full time .
If that was the peak of Sakho’s time at Liverpool then the downward spiral started when in April UEFA announced they were investigating him for doping following a failed drugs test.
It was later revealed that the central defender was using a fat burning substance which was not on UEFA’s banned list.
Even then he was walking a tightrope after not telling the club about what he was taking and the fall out with Klopp only got worst.
Despite being injured, Sakho was still allowed to accompany the rest of the squad on their 2016 US tour to be involved as part of the team bonding before the new season.
However a number of incidents on that trip led to Sakho’s relationship with Klopp becoming increasingly strained.
This on top of interrupting Klopp’s interview with LFC TV during a visit to Alcatraz island was the final straw as he was sent home on the 26th July.
Klopp revealing to the camera Sakho’s lateness for the flight to the USA alongside the joke he would leave him at the isolated prison showed the strain between two of them.
The tongue in cheek remark turned out to have a deeper meaning that the Liverpool manager didn’t want him around the squad any longer.
It was a challenge to Klopp’s authority and his belief in team harmony means erasing all traces of ill-discipline amongst his players.
Hence why there is no mention of any egos in the Liverpool camp. They work towards a moral obligation of putting the team before their own actions.
The quality Liverpool have at centre back now would of edged Sakho out eventually as Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez would later develop their imperious partnership regardless.
Nevertheless Sam Allardyce called upon Liverpool’s unwanted man’s services and a stand out loan spell was enough to convince Palace to take him on for long term.
Before this season he was seen as one as Palace’s rock at the back no matter how many doses of anxiety he might give out with his erratic playing style.
Pushing Sakho out of the club left Liverpool fans bemused as the French defender was one of Liverpool’s most consistent players during Klopp’s first half season at the club.
And Sakho must look back at his time at Liverpool with regret as he faces a crucial moment in his playing career.