Having arrived for £18M in the summer of 2013, expectations were always high for defender Mamadou Sakho. One of the brightest names in French football, his development had suffered at Paris St. Germain as a focus on importing foreign stars limited playing time.
There was little doubt, though, he could become one of the best defenders in Europe, and Liverpool gambled he could develop into that player with them. Early signs were positive, but there were also struggles, and when the club brought in Dejan Lovren for £20M a year later, many wondered if his days in England were numbered.
"Language," was Sakho’s answer when asked by L’Equipe what he struggled with most, and what had held him back, early on following his move to the Premier League. "I’m a man of character, so I feel frustrated when sometimes I cannot express myself and it becomes worse when others then fail to understand me.
"Some people told me to just speak French, that it would have allowed me to feel a little more free, but when I spoke French on the pitch nobody understood me. I told myself, ‘this is useless, I need to learn English.’ And it did take me a while, but now everything’s fine."
A few commentators may still fall back on tired cliches about how Sakho can look awkward on the ball—this despite that he’s been amongst the best defenders on the ball statistically since arriving in England—but with Sakho finally settled at Anfield, the vast majority of fans have begun to fully come around to him.
It probably hasn’t hurt, either, that Lovren has looked far shakier in his first season with the club than Sakho ever has. No matter the how or why, though, with the adjustment to life in England now complete for the player, Liverpool fans are increasingly happy their club took the gamble on him. And Sakho’s happy about it, too.
"Do I finally feel happy at Liverpool?" he added. "Yes, I feel good."