Mamadou Sakho, our French Rock, has been in the headlines with talk of Champions League football. A day after hobbling off injured for the French National Team, Mama is reported to have said that he would like to play champions league football again, could have left last summer, and will have talks this summer. Naturally, not the greatest news if you are a Palace fan right now. So, with this news coming out, I wanted to take a quick look at whether we should let him go in the summer, or fight to keep him.
To start on a personal note, I like Mama. When we signed him on loan, I thought we had snagged a massive coup, and his eight appearances that season did not dissuade me from that line of thought. He was a class above, and most certainly improved our defence. Come the summer, I was very much on the 'sign Sakho' bandwagon. So, when he signed permanently on transfer deadline day, I was absolutely delighted. It was a signing in which I felt we were punching well above our weight in making, and I feared that it would only be a matter of time before a bigger club comes calling. Fast forward a year, and It would seem that time may well be coming, if that interview is accurate.
Now, I can imagine that there will be divided opinions on this. Some will be happy to cash in, while others will be desperate for him to stay. I know a couple of people who have already said to sell him next summer, even before this interview came out. In the eyes of some, he is an expensive luxury that we just can't afford, and I can see their point to a degree, so I will start there. Mama cost us a fee for the loan, and then cost us £26m to make it permanent. On top of that, I can't imagine his wages are cheap. For a club of our financial stature, we need big outlays like that to make a return on the pitch, because we just can't afford to carry expensive dead weight. Mama was not fit for the first few games of his loan, and he then missed the final few games through injury. When he signed permanently, he was still injured and missed games. He then got injured again, followed by his absence due to his baby. I am well aware that injuries happen, but when it comes to a player like Mama, these absences really notice, and we could be about to face another. For some, it is a lot of money for a player who is not available enough.
Another aspect is his tendency to make one howler per game. For some reason, if Mama has time on the ball, he seems to over think things and get himself into a mess. We have seen it several times, where he dithers on the ball and ends up giving it away, when he had so much time to just clear it. He stupidly gave away the penalty against Bournemouth, while the 'foul' on Salah was also him. He was also brought into question for Everton's goals. Plus, I will never forget the madness against Chelsea at home last season, when, at 2-1, he back heeled the ball straight to Fabregas in the box, who thankfully somehow missed. Mama has moments of madness in him, you fear it every game, and at times it has proven far too costly. For some, it makes him an expensive liability that they would happily be without.
You can also look at it from an off the pitch view. Mama cost us £26m, at a time when he was being left to rot in the Liverpool reserves. With us he has become a regular Premier League player again, and is back in the France Squad. On top of that, when Virgil Van Dijk was sold for £70m, you can forgive us for thinking that if we sold Mama, especially with several years of his contract left, we could demand over £30m for him. This would be much needed cash, that could be used to fund a few transfers to help rebuild our squad and so, it could be a big lure for many fans.
Then again, a financial gain it could be, but a massive loss on the pitch it could also be. The fact is, his moments of madness aside, Mama improves our defence. He is a massive presence back there and I feel better having him on the pitch. Time on the ball may cause him to make errors, but when it is all hands to the pump, the man is a warrior who thrives. He puts his body on the line with clearing headers, sliding blocks and tough tackles. He is at his best when he doesn't need to contemplate, he just has to act. The man at times is a rock. On top of that, his partnership with Tomkins can't be ignored. It was something like twelve games unbeaten with them playing together, until the Liverpool game this August. They improve each other, there is no doubt about it. I love the pairing of Tomkins and Sakho, it is unbelievable that we actually get to watch it, when in days gone by we had players like David Tuttle playing in central defence!
If we sold Mama, could we realistically replace him? Could we find another player of that quality? It is hard to say yes at this current time. We would be running the risk of losing real quality and bringing in someone less effective. We are already suffering that this season with Cabaye and RLC not being suitably replaced, can we afford to do the same with Mama? Not only that, but our defensive depth is not exactly great. For me, Tomkins is our best centre back, with Mama second. Then you have Kelly, who works hard and is decent, but is not a first choice centre back if you want to try and push to mid table. Finally, we have Dann, who is currently injured again, and I sadly believe is not up to this level anymore anyway. We have little quality in depth there, to lose Mama would create an even bigger hole, and our transfer activity does not fill me with confidence that we would suitably fill it.
If I am honest, it is the last thing we need right now, the thought that he possibly wants to leave. We need everyone pulling together, and it will surely annoy a lot of people that he is talking about leaving. At the same time, I can kind of understand it. He would have been sold a picture of kicking on up the table, and instead is facing relegation battle number three. It is hard to not blame him for having dreams of returning to the big stage of the Champions League, where he was once happily at home.
So, going back to the question, do I think we should fight to keep him, or should we let him go? Well, my opinion on him has never changed, I think he improves us, and we are a better team for having him in it. I think we need to be trying to build a squad with players like him at the core, not shipping them out for quick money. However, if he wants to go, then that dictates the decision. If you don't want to wear our red and blue anymore, then you know where the door is. So while I would like to keep him, I think the summer will likely see us say au revoir.