With Dejan Lovren being picked ahead of him to start the season despite that most thought he had won the job last season, Mamadou Sakho always knew his international future was on shaky ground. He may not have expected it to come to a head quite this quickly, though.
With the September international break almost upon us and France set to face Portugal and Serbia, Sakho has been left out of Didier Deschamps’ side despite that the French manager favours the centre half. According to Deschamps, it’s a simple case of a player who doesn’t play at the club level likely lacking match fitness.
"He is an important player but he finds himself in a difficult position," said the national team manager this week following news Sakho had been left off the squad this time out. "Playing international matches when you have not played for your club for a month is difficult, so I hope that his situation improves."
The one positive for Sakho is that with France set to host the Euros, the upcoming games are friendlies and not qualifiers. Also, Deschamps has in the past made no secret that he rates the centre half highly. If Sakho can get playing time at the club level, there is little doubt he will be first choice for France come next summer.
It’s fair to ask, though, whether Sakho will get that playing time. It’s clear the club still value him, as seen by the recent offer of a raise and contract extension. That will matter little to the player, though, if he spends the next ten months stuck on the bench. And with Dejan Lovren looking better than last year, he just might.
Lovren hasn’t turned in a star performance yet, but with Liverpool posting three shutouts in a row, it would be unfair in the extreme to suggest the Croatian hasn’t at least played well enough to continue starting. Whether he should have started the season ahead of Sakho in the first place, though, is a more than fair question.
It’s a question likely to be at the front of Sakho’s mind over the next week as the transfer window nears its close. Already Liverpool have rebuffed interest from Roma and Bayer Leverkusen. Now, given Descahmps’ decision, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Sakho decide he has no choice but to publicly push for a move.