USUALLY in a two-sided scenario people have an opinion one way or the other.
Often, someone is plain wrong, and someone completely right — such as when someone tells you that the earth is flat. Other situations aren’t so clear. Such as when people go to KFC and some choose beans and others plump for gravy. You may think you’re 100 per cent right about the beans, but the gravy has a lot going for it as well. It isn’t like you can compare choosing beans to thinking that the earth is flat — one has areas of grey, the other is black and white.
Mamadou Sakho’s situation reminds me of all this.
Some people are bizarrely entrenched on Sakho to the point where they sound ridiculous. He’s the greatest defender in the world, say some; people who think he should be first man named in a Liverpool defence. Then you can go right the way down to people who think he’s absolutely rubbish.
The truth is he is neither.
It’s important to point out that neither argument has a leg to stand on here.
Jürgen Klopp didn’t ostracise Sakho because he didn’t think he was good enough to don a red shirt on a regular basis — he ostracised him because:
- He turned up for pre-season training overweight and minus the requisite fitness levels (as he also did under Brendan Rodgers)
- He had previously taken a pill to lose weight without approval of club doctors
- He missed the departure of the plane to the USA in pre-season, turned up late for a session then a meal and was generally pretty disruptive.
“It is how I said, we have some rules and we have to respect them. If somebody doesn’t respect it, or somebody gives me the feeling he is not respecting it, then I have to react, that’s all,” said Klopp last July.
Simply put, Sakho was a pain in Klopp’s arse for about three months.
So he was sent home from San Francisco, turned down August loan moves against the wishes of the manager, was made to train with the Under 23s, had a rant on Snapchat — “I accept my situation but I can’t accept the lie… the fans deserve to know the truth!” — and has now been sent on loan to Crystal Palace where he has been doing well.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise because he’s good enough to play for Liverpool so he’s obviously going to look good at Palace.
Every good game he has is met with a cry of “WHY IS HE NOT HERE?” from the Sakho in-crowd, as if Klopp watched him training and in games and decided he wasn’t for him from a footballing point of view.
Then we end up with bizarre arguments, with people who don’t like him telling those who do that he was rubbish, that he couldn’t pass, that he couldn’t defend and that he just wasn’t very good: “I’m firmly behind Klopp’s decision to get rid of him. He was rubbish.”
That’s great, but that isn’t why the manager shipped him out.
I’m pretty in the middle on Sakho as a player but from a football point of view offloading Sakho has made little sense. I only want to see a footballer leave if he can be categorically improved on and you cannot argue that Liverpool did that last summer.
I’ve stood in a ground at Bournemouth and watch Liverpool capitulate against Benik Afobe with Lucas at centre half, I’ve watched Fernando Llorente and Swansea make Ragnar Klavan look like the average centre back that we signed, and I’ve looked at team sheets for most of the season and wished Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren weren’t made of papier-mâché .
There have been plenty of times when I’ve thought, ‘We could do with Sakho here’. While there are people who just continually shout: “GOOD RIDDANCE, HE WAS CRAP, WE DON’T NEED HIM.”
– LISTEN: Sport psychologist Damian Hughes on creating a culture at a football club
Even though I don’t think Sakho is as good as some paint him, I don’t really understand how anyone can watch him and conclude that he is crap based on both what he did in a red shirt and what you’ve seen this season. Although, saying that, we spent three seasons having people think he couldn’t pass a ball when the reality was that it was probably the strongest part of his game, so I suppose anything is possible.
Liverpool conceded far too many goals last season and I wrote something over the summer saying Klopp would have the right to get rid of any defender that he chooses based on football reasons. But then you remember that Sakho wasn’t offloaded for football reasons and the whole argument becomes bizarre.
People who think the manager doesn’t know a defender, people who think he has no idea how to spot one. “HE WAS CRAP, HIM” versus “HE WAS GREAT, HIM.”
The reality is he’s neither; he’s a decent footballer who contributed quite heavily to a title challenge and a run to the Europa League final. It might well be that if he had been able to defend a little bit better we would have won a title — or that if he could look after himself a little bit better he wouldn’t have been banned for the Europa League Final and we would have won that as well.
The need for such an entrenched view on a player that just doesn’t warrant it is peculiar.
If you had just woken up from a four-year sleep you would be forgiven for being confused as to how two people can look at the same person and think he’s so different. You would listen to one tell you about how we’ve sent the French Paolo Maldini to Crystal Palace, while someone else is in your ear telling you that you should be grateful that you’ve managed to sleep through the second coming of Djimi Traore.
Then you could witness him play and think both people were idiots as you watched a half decent centre half do half decent things loads better than Djimi Traore but nowhere near as good as Paolo Maldini.
Every time he has a good game now people are taking to the internet to tell you about how great he is; about how he’s our best centre back, about how much better off we’d be if we’d kept him.
Whether this is true or not we’ll never, ever know, but Klopp had lost his patience with him. Sometimes a manager and a club as a collective are able to tolerate certain failings in a person because their footballing ability is just so good.
You do this for people like Luis Suarez — you don’t do it for centre backs that aren’t guaranteed to start.
The charge sheet against Sakho was as long as War and Peace and no list of excuses that his fan club are able to put forward should mean that Klopp should have tolerated him.
At least this weekend we’ll be free from a ‘Wasn’t Sakho good there? Why can’t we have still have him?’ conversation given that Palace come to Anfield and the terms of his loan mean he can’t play.
That will be pretty refreshing.
Whether you think Sakho is beans or you think he’s gravy, can you all just jib it now? Maybe all agree to have the sweetcorn instead.