Crystal Palace look safe. Finally, after spending much of the season flirting with relegation, the south London club appear to have little to worry about heading into the final three games of the season. And a lot of that is thanks to the contributions of Mamadou Sakho.
The Liverpool defender arrived on loan at the end of January and the defensive turnaround was instant for the then-struggling club. Now they're six points above the drop with three games to play—and with a massive goal differential edge. It all has Christian Benteke looking ahead to next year.
And for the former Liverpool striker, who played with Sakho first at Anfield and now again at Palace, one of the first things he wants to see happen is for the club to sign Sakho permanently, something he's going to do his best to make happen in the coming weeks and months.
"I'm trying to persuade him to stay," Benteke told the Evening Standard today. "It will be tough, he'll have offers from other clubs, but our chairman and boss will try to get him to stay, too. He's made such a difference to us. First we have to stay up, but we're not far away now."
The assumption for many is that a move abroad, perhaps to Italy, is most likely for Sakho, with clubs like Juventus and Roma rumoured to be sniffing around. His £30M price tag and high wages, though, could make foreign clubs think twice about signing him.
Meanwhile, with the Premier League's bloated coffers, it might actually be easier to imagine a club like Palace being willing and able to pay what it takes to secure Sakho's services—especially given how important he has been to their Premier League survival hopes this season.
It will be a long shot, then. But it's not an impossibility. And it's something that everyone at Palace, from Benteke through to the owners to manager Sam Allardyce are going to be pushing for. If they can manage it, the goal will then become to push on next season for a top half finish.
"It wasn't the plan when I came here to fight relegation," Benteke noted. "Next season, we have to aim for the top half of the Premier League table."