JUST when you thought LFC Twitter couldn’t go into any more of a meltdown post Burnley disaster, there was the 10:30pm hot LFC journo news.
We’re sending Mamadou Sakho off for a few months to “find himself”. Possibly to Thailand. Possibly to a football club in Italy. Depends what’s more expensive.
This was not what people wanted to hear. A lot of Liverpool fans love Sakho. A lot. You know what, I love him too. One of the highlights of last season was the post European celebration of a Sakho chant followed by a salute to The Kop.
He’s big. He’s Scouse. He’ll come and paint your house.
A fella who gets the bond between footballers and fans, and plays like it.
So what is Jürgen Klopp – a manager who has just seen his Sakho-less defence concede five goals in his first two league games – thinking? Well there are a few theories knocking about.
Firstly there is the discipline stuff. That he wants to make an example of Sakho, to put his marker down on the squad. Show who is in charge. It seems unlikely to me that Klopp needs to assert his authority on anything. Surely his reputation, medals won, general demeanour and absolute massiveness do that for him? He’s already slapped Jordon Ibe on the pitch and then sold him. I think they know who is boss.
Or maybe he just generally doesn’t like his indiscipline? In the wake of the news that UEFA weren’t going to ban Sakho after all, and we all wanted to ban UEFA instead, it was largely ignored that the club were absolutely furious that Sakho had got himself into the situation in the first place by going off and taking whatever he fancied. That he then spent the summer getting injured, being late for everything and trying to recreate the “WASSUP” Budweiser adverts was probably not what the football club expected, or wanted.
Towards the end of Rafa Benitez’s time at Anfield there were rumours of breakdowns of relationships with certain senior players. I took Rafa’s side. I always did. But it was always in the back of my mind that it was easy for me to say. I didn’t have to deal with him every day. I just got the Rafa of my imagination, and the thought of another European Cup.
We forget that football clubs are workplaces. We get the Sakho on the football pitch – and the memes. For a manager he has to think about much more than that. He has to think about the culture of a football club and who might be in the way of that. And sometimes there is just a fella who is doing your head in, one way or another. We’ve all been there.
Or maybe it isn’t discipline at all. Maybe they are all over that. Another theory is that we just want to see him get right on someone else’s watch. That Sakho is a bit slow coming back from injury at the best of times, and after a lengthy lay off it might be better to have him get fit somewhere else, where he can be first choice straight away.
Klopp obviously feels that he has sufficient enough CB cover in Matip, Lovren, Klavan, Lucas, (Gomez) to let Sakho go and get games.
— Jack Sear (@JackSear) August 23, 2016
This is possible, but what if he picks up another knock in a couple of months? And what do we do in the meantime? We don’t have masses of cover and I’m surprised Lucas Leiva is still being seen as an option. It seems to put a lot of pressure on Joel Matip, who hasn’t yet played a real game for Liverpool and Joe Gomez, who may or may not have working legs.
That Klopp seems willing to let Sakho go in this situation suggests something that people don’t really want to admit. That he’s another manager who doesn’t think he is particularly good. Liverpool fans have spent a long time defending Sakho. Accusations of “Bambi on Ice” are hit with passing stats. Accusations of errors are hit with comparisons of other defenders. However, actual football managers remain unsure.
It is often trotted out that Sakho was named Paris Saint Germain’s youngest ever captain aged 17, but rarely that this was mainly a political move, and that by 23 his hometown club had seemingly given up on him. From there he moves to Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers never seems entirely convinced of the defender, despite being willing to throw him straight in the team. This was seen by fans as a fault of the defensively suspect Rodgers, rather than the player himself. Yet a new manager has come in and could well agree with him. Despite all the issues both Liverpool managers have had at the back, the Frenchman has rarely been seen as the answer.
It may just be the case that fans love the passion and the effort rate of a player, higher than a manager needs certainty and reliability. That a manager who knows what winning squads are doesn’t quite see a place for a Mamadou Sakho. That a centre half partner would prefer, as Jamie Carragher once told us, a seven out of ten each week, rather than a fella who can throw in a nine one week and a three the next.
It’s possibly all these things in some way combined. Most situations are. The manager isn’t entirely convinced, is having his head done in by a variety of factors and is worried about the return from the long lay off. So he chooses to do something about it. That something can seem drastic to us – to him he is just solving a problem.
It’s a shame for those like me who believe in the player and want to like those who pull on the shirt for Liverpool. But if Sakho goes out on loan this week, I really struggle to see a way back.