Blog by: Yash
It is not very often that a teenager is made the captain of a side playing in a top division football league. However, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), one of top French clubs who have tasted success in France and also in Europe, did precisely that when manager Paul Le Guen handed the captain’s armband to 17-year-old Mamadou Sakho in the league match against Valenciennes on October 20, 2007, in a game where Sakho was incidentally making his Ligue 1 debut. In doing so, he became the youngest captain in Ligue 1 history.
Born in Paris on February 13, 1990, Sakho began his career at Paris FC, which is considered to be one of top clubs in Paris for grooming budding footballers, and the best talent are often signed by PSG. After spending six years at Paris FC, Sakho was duly signed by PSG. However, while he played mostly as a striker at Paris FC, PSG moved him to a defensive role, mainly because their youth team had fewer defenders than strikers.
Sakho struggled initially at the PSG youth academy, and risked expulsion because of not following orders. Coach Christian Mas took Sakho under his tutelage and helped nurture the youngster’s talent. Soon Sakho had managed to establish himself in the youth teams of PSG despite being one of the youngest players, and started knocking on the doors of the first-team.
Manager Le Guen called up Sakho for UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie against AEK Athens in February 2007 and later played the UEFA Cup Round of 16 match against Benfica. Sakho played both the games in the left-back position. He signed his first professional contract with PSG on July 14, 2007 when he agreed a three-year deal, and was assigned the number 3 jersey in the first-team.
Sakho was given captaincy in his debut Ligue 1 game as manager Le Guen wanted to send a message to team captain Pedro Pauleta and vice-captain Sylvain Armand. He played 12 Ligue 1 matches in his first season as a professional, and he mostly played as left-back. He played full 90 minutes of the French Cup final where PSG beat Lens 2-1 to lift the trophy.
Sakho went on to make 23 league appearances in the following season, and scored his first senior goal in the game against Saint-Etienne in February 2009. He also played a key role in PSG’s progress to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup. Sakho moved to his preferred central defence position in the 2009-2010 season alongside veteran Zoumana Camara. The decision proved to be an inspired one, as Sakho quickly established himself as one of the top French defenders, and earned a call to the national side.
He continued his rich vein of form in the 2010-2011 season, where he also scored four league goals apart from his solid defending, which won him the French Young Player of the Year award, and he was also named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year.
Sakho was reinstated as the club captain in the 2011-2012 season after the retirement of Claude Makelele. However he struggled with poor form and injuries, and was later dropped by PSG’s new manager Carlo Ancelotti.
With the club making some big money signings after the take-over by Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, Sakho fell behind Thiago Silva and Alex in the pecking order in the 2012-12 season, and mostly appeared off the bench, or played in the cup competitions.
With PSG looking to strengthen further, Sakho realized that he needed a transfer away from the club in order to have more playing time to stake a claim for a place in the French national team. Liverpool were in the market for a defender, and moved quickly to sign the player once they got to know about his interest in a transfer.
Sakho will be expected to line-up alongside Liverpool vice-captain Daniel Agger in the centre of the defence, and he will hope to rediscover his old touch that helped him achieve success at a very early age. Players like him are scarcely available on the transfer market, and Liverpool did well to purchase the defender, who at 23, is very capable of marshalling the team’s defence for many years to come.