Can Sakho become a world-class defender at Liverpool?

Liverpool signing Mamadou Sakho believes he can and will improve at Anfield after arriving from Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

The 23-year-old French defender had been hailed in his homeland as one of the brightest prospects of his generation for both club and country.

He had joined PSG, his hometown club, aged 12 and worked his way up through the ranks at the Parc des Princes, signing his first professional contract aged 17, the same year he was handed the number 3 shirt and his opportunity with the first team.

He made his first start for PSG in 2007 and was an undisputed first-team regular by the next season in 2008/09, still only a teenager and he featured in over 30 games per season for the subsequent four terms.

However, the arrival of the Qatar Investment Authority who bought the club in 2012 for $130 million and then invested a further $340 million in the club, Sakho began to slip down the pecking order in the French capital.

The arrival of the likes of Thiago Silva, and Alex meant the youngster, barely into his twenties was competing for his position with top quality experienced centre-backs whilst still trying to develop his own game.

Last term he played 90 minutes of league football on 22 occasions and the previous season it was just 19. For a player of his age, especially in his position, he needs to be getting regular access to the first-team, especially with the World Cup next year in Brazil and the abundance of competition for his place in the national team from the likes of Laurent Koscielny, Adil Rami, Eliaquim Mangala and Raphael Varane.

Last term Sakho made 9 appearances for Les Blues at international level, taking his caps to 14 since his senior debut in 2010. Due to how long he’s been around, one could be forgiven for mistaking him with a player much longer in the tooth than he actually is.

For his quality and experience, his 23 years are deceptive – he’s made over 200 appearances for PSG, won the Ligue 1 title, played in the Champions League, Europa League and at international level for his country and now, having transferred to the Reds, he’s got every chance of making the plane to Brazil next summer.

“I had achieved everything I had wanted to do with Paris Saint-Germain. We had won the title, and I made the decision a while ago that I wanted to take on something else,” he explained.

“I knew I wanted to experience a different culture and learn new things and when Liverpool came in for me I was easily convinced. I was happy to leave in the end.”

He’s perfectly suited to the Premier League – 6ft2”, strong as they come, quick, intelligent and his reading of the game is already very good. He needs time and, crucially, games to develop his form and confidence – especially for centre-backs experience is key to their success at the highest level.

As a youngster, circa 2010, Mamadou Sakho was the Ligue1 Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year but his club opted to bring in elder players who, ultimately, blocked his path. He’ll now continue his keen a swift development at Anfield under Brendan Rodgers and I have every confidence that he is PSG’s loss and Liverpool’s gain.

Mamadou Sakho, the local boy, will become one of the most gifted and successful defenders of his generation and, what’s more, he’ll rise to world-class level at Liverpool in the toughest and most intense league in the world. Overall, it’ll do him the world of good and he’ll know better than anyone, if he’d have stayed in Paris he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become the player he is certainly capable of becoming.

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