There was an awkward moment during Liverpool’s summer tour of the United States last year in which club boss, Jürgen Klopp, reciprocated Mamadou Sakho’s teasing, on-camera antics by outing the Frenchman’s poor time-keeping.
It didn’t take long for us all to realise the incident extended beyond the point of a joke between the two Liverpool fan favourites, with Sakho yet to appear for the first team this season and being reduced to Under-23s football since the start of the new campaign.
With the situation surviving the summer transfer window, it seems the Frenchman’s name will now be the most prominent cast member of deadline day in the red half of Merseyside, as the likes of Crystal Palace, Southampton and Galatasaray all reportedly make approaches before the closure of the window.
According to Sky Sports News, Liverpool have asked for a fee of £20 million for their want-away centre back, £4 million north of the fee that saw him arrive from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2013, whereas the defender’s towering £105,000-a-week wages may prove to be a further stumbling block for potential suitors.
But as Sam Allardyce, among others, trawl the back of their sofas for spare change, are the Reds making the correct decision in finally shifting the 26-year-old?
Liverpool’s depth has come into question since the turn of the year, as 2017 welcomed just one win in seven outings for the Premier League title hopefuls.
Within those games, Klopp’s men have shipped in a total of 10 goals, including the combined figure of five conceded at home to lowly-placed Swansea City and Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers, as concerns over their defence threaten the outcome of this season.
Joël Matip’s absence over eligibility issues and a malleolar injury has been alarming, as the 25-year-old was replaced by another Bundesliga import, Ragnar Klavan, who’s blown hot and cold (very cold) throughout this season.
Could Sakho have steadied the ship?
In comparison with Matip, widely regarded as Klopp’s main man in the defensive sector, Sakho actually challenges the Cameroonian quite closely.
The France international leads the way in tackles won (0.91 per game vs. 0.85), as well the percentage of aerial duels won (61.74% vs 57.14%).
The range of interceptions made per game are almost identical, but the amount of tackles lost by Sakho (0.95 per game) and the leading figure of 0.14 defensive errors made in the same time indicate, as many have often suspected, that the ex-PSG captain doesn’t exactly cut a calming figure when called for duty.
Beyond basic statistics, the argument that Sakho is the inferior defender wouldn’t sound alien to many, whereas the outcome of a match-up between himself and Lovren is a little more debatable. What’s certain is that the six clean sheets amassed by a Matip – Lovren combo has presented itself in good light.
Beyond the duo relied upon by Klopp, Sakho certainly has room to contest it, with Klavan appearing to be the weak link and the injury-ravaged Joe Gomez still returning to full fitness.
The Frenchman is good, but not irreplaceable, however, and meanwhile it would’ve been ideal to have had the 26-year-old shadow those predicted to be ahead of him in the pecking order, the defender’s prolonged isolation is one Liverpool could do without.
In hindsight, the great error is not that Sakho remains an outcast during a moment of instability, but rather that his position hasn’t already been dealt with and rectified with a replacement, be it earlier in the current window or back in the summer.
It’s about putting the story to bed, now, and at anything close to the reported £20 million fee, an overdue Sakho sale should be welcomed without regret.