Liverpool fans, by and large, did not react happily to news on Monday that following a difficult six months at the club, defender Mamadou Sakho was being made available for loan. A fan favourite since his arrival at the club, Sakho had seemed to have nailed down a starting job under Jürgen Klopp last season.
Then, a failed drugs test. In the end, it was a mistake, UEFA pushed into investigating a case that was borderline at best by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Sakho was cleared, but he missed the end of Liverpool’s season, and he missed the Europa League final with a place in the Champions League on the line.
With Dejan Lovren continuing to play well in his absence and the arrival of Joël Matip, holding on to the starting job suddenly looked far tougher than it had in the spring. Then, an injury. Then, Sakho was sent home from the tour after showing up late for the flight, a team dinner, and a treatment session.
In his latest absence, Ragnar Klavan arrived and made his case for more regular minutes than he would get as a fourth defender. And then, last night, reports emerged that Sakho was likely to be loaned out. He’d fallen down the depth chart, perhaps fallen out with his manager, and he needed a chance to play.
Today, following the initial report from The Times’ Tony Barrett last night, there is confirmation from other Liverpool-connected journalists, including from James Pearce and The Liverpool Echo. Sakho has been passed on the Liverpool depth chart by Lovren and Matip and maybe even Klavan.
Mamadou Sakho is available for loan, though the club continue to insist that it is not meant to be a first step towards a permanent exit for the French international—that it is simply a case of a player lacking fitness who needs minutes and likely wouldn’t get them if he stayed at Liverpool this season.
It also has to do, according to The Echo, with Klopp’s decision to keep Lucas Leiva at Anfield to see out the final year of his contract at the club and to find minutes for the veteran Brazilian, who the manager continues to rate highly despite that he doesn’t see him as a clear starter at any position.
One place Lucas would be expected to see minutes, though, is at centre half, and so with Sakho being offered around on loan, it appears the 29-year-old Lucas is the club’s new fourth centre half to go along with being the second specialist defensive midfielder behind presumptive starting anchor Emre Can.
The current spin, then, is that a Sakho loan serves two purposes: it gets Sakho the playing time he needs to argue his case for being one of the club’s top two defenders in the future, and it gets Lucas minutes in the present. Whether the reality in the end plays out in a way that reflects that spin is anyone’s guess.