On the day before the summer transfer-window of 2013 came to a close Victor Moses, Tiago Ilori and Mamadou Sakho were all picked out by the television cameras attending Liverpool’s home Premier League match against defending champions Manchester United at Anfield. Within hours of that match finishing the club was able to confirm that all three had signed contracts to join a squad that had already been considerably strengthened during the summer months. Victor Moses was certainly the most well-known of the trio to British fans because he had already played in England for several years. But Mamadou Sakho, ten months older than Moses and three years older than Ilori, was arguably the more experienced because he had spent several years with one club in France before furthering his career by moving to England. Sakho had also been playing in European competitions regularly since early-2007, whereas that was a relatively new innovation for both Moses and Ilori.
Sakho was born in Paris and did not have to move away from the French capital to kick-start his career as a professional footballer. He was associated with Paris F.C. from a very young age before moving on to Paris Saint-Germain at the age of twelve. He excelled as a teenager before being brought regularly into the club’s first-team squad by experienced manager Paul Le Guen after the Frenchman returned to manage in his homeland following a largely unsatisfactory year with Glasgow Rangers. Le Guen gave 17-year-old Sakho his senior League debut … and the captaincy … against Valenciennes towards the end of October 2007; and he remains the youngest-ever captain of a Ligue 1 club. He made eleven more League appearances in 2007/08 and then played in nearly 80% of PSG’s Ligue 1 fixtures over the next three seasons, a period during which he collected a winners’ medal in the Coupe de France (2010) two years after he had been a member of the team that had won the Coupe de la Ligue. Further glory would come in 2013 when Paris Saint-Germain won its first domestic championship since 1994 a year after finishing runners-up to Montpellier. When PSG also won the Trophée des Champions (the equivalent of the English Community Shield) early in August 2013, it meant that Sakho at the early age of twenty-three had won all the major domestic prizes that it was possible to win in France.
The defender played at several different levels for his country before being called up by national team manager Laurent Blanc for a friendly against Norway in August 2010. Although he did not play in that match, which was Blanc’s first in charge of team affairs, he only had to wait another three months before coming on as a half-time substitute for France against England at Wembley, a fixture the visitors won by two goals to one. At the time of his move to Liverpool Sakho had appeared fourteen times for the French national team. Sakho played in 18 Premier League matches for Liverpool in 2013/14, scoring once against West Ham United at Anfield in December. He was a regular starter in the closing weeks of the season until Brendan Rodgers left him out in favour of Daniel Agger on the final day of the season. At international
level, he was a hero for France when scoring twice against Ukraine in Paris in November as the French team overturned a 2-0 deficit to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. These were his first international goals for his country's senior team.
World Cup 2014: Sakho played the whole match in France's comfortable 3-0 victory over Honduras. Against Switzerland five days later, an even more emphatic win by five goals to two, he was replaced midway through the second half by Laurent Koscielny. In the final group match against Ecuador
he was again substituted in the second half, this time for Raphaël Varane. Sakho did not play in France's last 16 win
over Nigeria in Brasília but returned for the quarter-final defeat by Germany in Rio de Janeiro when he was again replaced by Koscielny.
Sakho was out of favour at Liverpool at the start of the 2014/15 season and when he didn't even make the bench for the game against Everton on 27 September, he went home rather than watch the game in the stand. Sakho then picked up an injury in training but in the second half of the season managed to force his way back into the side, which coincided with an about-turn in results. 2015/16 saw Sakho achieve cult status at Anfield and he cemented this with the opening goal against Everton in a 4-0 win in April. However, that was his last action of the season for the Reds as he was found to have tested positive for a banned substance at the Europa League away game against Manchester United. Sakho was later cleared of any wrongdoing but had missed out on France's Euro 16 squad as a result. He picked up an injury on returning to pre-season training and was sent home early from America for three disciplinary incidents. Jürgen Klopp made it clear there was no way back into the first-team picture as he was a disruptive influence and he was loaned to Crystal Palace in January for the remainder of the 2016/17 season. Sakho impressed there but was limited to eight appearances due to ligament injury.
After being frozen out of the Reds squad during pre-season and the beginning of 2017/18, Sakho joined Palace in a £26 million deal on transfer deadline day. Initially, out with ligament damage, Sakho became a regular in Palace's side that season although did struggle for a time with a calf injury. In 2018-19, Sakho was an ever-present until February when his season was ended prematurely by a knee injury. In 2019/20 thigh problems limited his appearances to fourteen in the Premier League. In November 2020 he received substantial damages from the World Anti Doping Agency in respect of him being wrongly banned in 2016. Sakho was out of the side for most of 2020/21 through injury, making only six appearances in all competitions. Out of contract at the end of the season, he returned to France to join Montpellier. He left his injury problems behind him, appearing 29 times in his first season there.