It seemed as though it was all over for Mamadou Sakho at Liverpool last season. Despite being well-liked by supporters and a step above Dejan Lovren in terms of quality in consistency, Brendan Rodgers continually selected the Croatian center-half for a starting role. Things came to a head before the Merseyside derby at Anfield when, left out of the starting eleven again, Sakho drove away from the stadium and missed the match completely.
Thankfully player and manager smoothed things out in the weeks to come, and as it became evident that Lovren's early dip in form might just actually be his general form, Rodgers elevated Sakho to a starting role during Liverpool's best run of results all season. The French defender missed out due to injury at times, but whenever he was fit he became Rodgers go-to on the left side of central defense, and that trend should continue in the 2015-2016 season.
Sakho's skill on the pitch is only one part of what makes him so endearing, however, as he's been active off the pitch throughout his career, something he's carried over to Merseyside in the last few years. While on the preseason tour in Adelaide, he spoke about his connection with supporters and his charity work, noting the importance of setting a good example and trying to give back as much as possible:
"The tour is very nice for the team and for the fans because we get the chance to see them in another country, far from England. It makes us realise how big Liverpool are. We are part of the same family at Liverpool. For me, the players and fans work together in the same project and we as players have to stay close to them. They are the 12th person on the pitch. We have 11 players out on the pitch, but the fans give us a 12th player.
For me, my charity work is very important. When I was younger, I had a bad life. It's very important for me to give back to other people who are less fortunate. We know lots of kids love footballers, we are role models and we have to set an example. When I do my charity work, it's not for me to show I am a good guy or anything like that - I know who I am. It's to set an example. If one person can help another person and then someone else does the same, we can make a change - not all of the world, but some lives."
He is the complete package, a smart, compassionate leader who happens to also be a gifted athlete. Shouts for him to become the new vice-captain as well-deserved, and while there are other worthy candidates in the squad, Rodgers shouldn't have to look much further than Sakho. A leader on and off the pitch who knows who he is and what he represents.
- Rodgers Encouraged by Squad Depth Ahead of Busy 2015-2016 Season
- Lallana Looking to Impress After Difficult First Season at Liverpool
- Sterling Disappointed in Manner of Liverpool Exit, Probably Not the Only One
- Ings Ready to Compete for Minutes in Attack with Benteke Arrival on the Horizon
- Benteke Set for Liverpool Medical Ahead of Transfer from Aston Villa