Premier League clubs Arsenal and Liverpool are in a three way chase with Lyon to sign unsettled Paris Saint Germain defender Mamadou Sakho.
Both English clubs were rumoured to be after the French international last summer and could reignite their interest after Bernard Lacombe, special adviser to Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas, admitted that Sakho is on their radar.
The news will be welcomed by the highly rated centre back, who has made public his desire to leave his home town club. Last season was difficult for Sakho. Having struggled for fitness, he lost his placed to Alex and Milan Bisevac before suffering the ignominy of losing the captaincy as director Leandro deemed him ‘slightly overweight’.
Free spending PSG have since signed commanding centre back Thiago Silva, casting further doubt on Sakho’s future. Prior to the signing of Silva the 22-year-old told French sports daily L’Equipe: “If a new defender comes in, then I’ll do everything to leave because I have to think about my future.”
Sakho has long been admired by a number of Europe’s top clubs but his inevitable departure will be motivated by the promise of first team football.
It is PSG’s League 1 rivals who look best placed to meet Sakho’s demands. Lacombe has made it clear that the seven time champions want to add a centre back to their ranks. The physically imposing centre back is seen as an ideal signing and could expect to see regular action.
However, is this a step back for Parisian? Last season’s fourth placed finish means Lyon will play in the Europa League will Carlo Ancelotti’s men make an assault on the Champions League.
There is also the question of development. While PSG’s recent transfer activity has signalled a rise in the quality of Ligue 1, Sakho has proved himself at that level and if he is to progress, he may be better testing himself in a more challenging league.
A move to Liverpool not only presents a risk but also seems unlikely. With Damien Comolli as director of football, the Anfield club were repeatedly linked with Sakho. But the Frenchman has since left Liverpool and Brendan Rogers appears to be focusing on strengthening in other areas.
This is largely due to the commanding presence of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel at the heart of Liverpool’s defence. At 27, both can expect to be first choice for a number of years, leaving first team opportunities limited for Sakho. Add to that the developing talents of Sebastian Coates, Martin Kelly and Danny Wilson and Liverpool have more than enough defensive quality available.
As is the case with Agger and Skrtel, Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen are unquestionably the Gunners first choice centre backs. But, Arsenal are competing on four fronts and Sakho would provide them with some much needed strength in depth and so can expect pitch time.
Sakho has spoken of his desire to join a club who can help him develop and fulfill his early promise. With than in mind he is very much an Arsene Wenger signing. Young, highly rated and both technically and physically capable, if there is one club that can aid his development it is Arsenal.