On the fringes of the France team last summer when he sought a move away from Paris Saint-Germain, today Mamadou Sakho finds himself vice captain of the squad and near the top of the teamsheet. Meanwhile France, who last summer were adrift and looking a real doubt to even make the World Cup now look favourites to finish first in their group.
It was Sakho's influence in France's decisive qualifying playoff against Ukraine that confirmed his improved status in the squad, and now, alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, he finds himself key to Didier Deschamps' embrace of a younger, more team-oriented approach that looks to be paying early dividends.
The manager's faith in Sakho was further paid back again on Sunday when France opened group play against Honduras. Sakho was a composed, confident presence at the back for Les Bleus alongside Raphael Varane, dominating in the air against an agrarian Honduras side that was determined to play long balls in towards the heads.
Always with his own head up, and loathe to put the ball in the air, in posession he looked more like a ball-playing holding midfielder than a typical centre back, drilling passes into the feet of players ahead of him. It did mean that at times he could hold on to the ball too long, but his role in pushing France quickly into the attacking third when they were in possession was key to their dominance.
It also showed yet again why Brendan Rodgers values Sakho, a dominating physical presence always looking to play quick and on the ground, even if some observers insist on seeing a lanky, awkward centre half whenever they look at him.
Video by LFC Tiki Taka