In an exclusive interview with L’Équipe, Liverpool central defender Mamadou Sakho talked about his difficult recent period with the Merseyside club.
On being substituted against Everton with an injury…
Yes, it was a good match, an exciting one. It was enjoyable. During these type of meetings, you need to impose yourself on the game and to show your character. On the pitch, there are sometimes adrenaline rushes but as soon as the match is over, you turn your attention elsewhere.
On whether he doubted if he would ever return for France after being benched by Liverpool until recently signing his contract extension…
No, never. I was calm. I always knew that the work would finish off by paying off, so I was really, truly calm.
For the first time in two years, you missed out on the previous France squad for a reason other than injury…
It was bizarre, it is true, because it has been a long time that I have been selected, but, honestly, I was calm about it. It is maybe surprising for me to say that, but it is true. I sought refuge in work like I know how to.
When you see your usual teammates play well for France, what do you say?
I am proud. I tell myself that it is very good that the team is working well, and I am very happy for it. I am team fighter.
At 25, you are one of the vice-captains of France and you are considered as one of the key players. Is that easy to live with?
That title as a key player, it is you who gives me that (he laughs).
But no captain’s armband…
With or without the captain’s armband, “Mamad” will still be “Mamad”, who will laugh with everybody, young, old. I am natural and on the pitch I do my job as normal. I do not feel like I have additional responsibilities. I bring what I can bring.
When you saw your name on the list of 23 last Thursday, how did you feel? Was it relief?
Relieved? No, that would not be the right term. I am happy, I feel as if I have been recompensed for my work. And I am improving. Let’s say that, during that period where I was not playing, I was like a little lion in a cage that had not been fed for some time. And when you open the door, he springs forward.
Is the danger not, in that moment, to over-play and over-work, and to risk injury?
Maybe, but I am pretty well looked after in that respect. I have a personal fitness coach, I have a nutritionist at home. I have a personal physio too.
Does Steven Gerrard inspire you to work harder?
Steven, he is an example. Moreover, he sends me often little text messages like after my first match of the season, in Bordeaux, in the Europa League, with the captain’s armband. He sent me the text to congratulate me, he said to me: “Continue to fight like that, I am proud of you.” It is always pleasurable to receive such a message from such a great player.
From the outside, Liverpool seems to be a club like no other. Is it the same inside?
Oh yes, completely! The atmosphere that dominates, the fans, the team itself… When you enter Anfield, you feel special. When I hear the “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, before kick-off, I have the impression that I am hearing the national anthem. It puts you in a trance. I understand why so many people cross the world to go and watch a match here. I feel like a Scouser.
Have you picked up the Scouser accent?
It is true that their is a specific accent. I was given a special dictionary, just for Scouser words… If I tell you “Sounds lads”, do you know what that means?
It means: “Cool man.”