For as good a player as he is, Mamadou Sakho's Liverpool career has not been particularly easy. His signing in August of 2013 was mostly met with praise, but what's unfolded over the course of the last year and a half has been anything but straightforward, with injuries and manager's preference conspiring to leave his standing at the club in question throughout.
That's an absurd reality for a player of his quality, and that it's taken so long for him to be part of the preferred defensive setup has been difficult for those not stuck on aesthetics to understand. He certainly didn't help his own cause back in late September, of course, as he left Anfield ahead of kickoff against Everton after being left out of the matchday squad. The decision to leave him out, particularly with Dejan Lovren struggling so badly, is certainly subject to criticism, but Sakho's departure left him open to judgment as well.
Injury compounded the road back, but he's now one of the first names on the team sheet, and today's start against Everton will be a symbolic appearance for a player who was so far away from first-choice in the reverse fixture:
"The last derby was a bad moment for me. It was a difficult time. I felt bad. I was disappointed because I wanted to play. It is the same with all the players - we all want to play for the red shirt in big games. To be disappointed was natural. Thankfully, things have changed for me. I am always ready to fight for the club and for the team. I don't know if I have proved I belong here as that's for others to decide. But I am very happy at Liverpool and very happy with the team. I have two and a half years left on my contract and I've never said I wanted to go. My family is happy here and everything is settled for me, and I like being at Liverpool.
"The Everton game is special.It's one where we always have to be at our strongest. We have to be ready. We're in good form and it's a big game for us. I want to be an important player for Liverpool. I hope I am playing this time, but I am not the coach. I'll continue to work hard and make sure I am ready but the coach has to do his job, and he will decide if I play or not."
There is a less than zero chance that Brendan Rodgers doesn't select the French center-half today unless there's a major fitness problem, and the same can be said for the remainder of the season. He has become Liverpool's most commanding defender in the present setup, and he should be the man around whom Rodgers builds his defense in the coming years. Today will be special and symbolic, no doubt, but most encouraging is that there's plenty more to come from Mamadou Sakho in a Liverpool shirt.