'I cannot accept the lie' - Liverpool class clown banished by Jurgen Klopp without a club for months

As Liverpool prepared to complete a busy, yet ultimately underwhelming, summer, it was a deadline day signing that would most excite.

With Brendan Rodgers in the market to bolster his defensive options further following the signature of free transfer Kolo Toure, in came the highly-rated but unproven Thiago Ilori at £7million.

But it was not the young Portuguese who would hog the limelight at the beginning of September 2013. Instead, that would shine on Mamadou Sakho, who joined from Paris Saint-Germain to much fanfare.

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At a cost £18m, Sakho would become the most expensive centre-back in Anfield history at the time and inside the top five of any position.

The timing of the deal - coming in the final throes of the window - might have alarmed a few, but Sakho's signature was viewed as a statement at the time.

At the age of 23, the former PSG captain was thought of as the potential bedrock of a defence that would underpin Rodgers' charge for glory at Anfield.

Capped 14 times by France in September 2013, Sakho was seen as someone who could become a mainstay at the heart of Liverpool's defence for years to come.

It was a theory Rodgers certainly got himself on board with.

“You look at some teams and they have ageing centre-halves because it is a struggle to get a really good one," said Rodgers at the time.

“Sakho is 23 but he is an experienced player, he has senior international caps and looks an absolute monster in training. He is one who is ready for now and that is what we want.

“We had a chance to protect the club for maybe the next 10 years and that is what we have done.”

Sakho's maiden campaign did coincide with Rodgers' best season as Liverpool manager when they came within a whisker of a first title for nearly a quarter of a century.

The Frenchman, though, made just 18 Premier League appearances as the Reds' title hopes were undone by a porous defence that conceded a whopping 50 goals.

That figure was nearly twice as many as third-place Chelsea, giving the inquests into where it went wrong an easy place to start at.

Critics viewed an apparently uneasy and nervous Sakho as an impending liability, someone who never looked confident with the ball at his feet.

Despite the growing uncertainty of Sakho for some, the defender was able to post a pass accuracy of 92 per cent in his first season.

But with the likes of Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger also part of the squad, Rodgers appeared to never fully trust his £18m man.

The £20m addition of Dejan Lovren in July 2014 was an indirect indictment of Sakho's failure to convince in his first year.

Sakho would feature even less the following campaign as Rodgers' Reds failed to rise from a harrowing hangover of missing out on the title in the weeks of May 2014.

Sixteen Premier League appearances for Sakho hit its nadir on the final day as Liverpool were embarrassed 6-1 at Stoke in Steven Gerrard's final game for the club.

The following term was viewed as a fresh start for all as Rodgers kept hold of his job and a new team was recruited behind the scenes.

In came Sean O'Driscoll and Gary McAllister as Pep Lijnders was promoted after his impressive work with the club's Under-16s.

A big-spending summer ensued as Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne arrived for over £70million alongside Danny Ings, Joe Gomez and free transfer James Milner.

The captain's armband was handed to Sakho for a Europa League game in Bordeaux, but he would be made to wait until the end of September for his first Premier League start of the season as Rodgers' tenure unravelled.

He featured in the last game of the Rodgers reign - the 1-1 draw at Everton - before being named in Jurgen Klopp's first Liverpool team at Spurs in mid-October.

Sakho turned in some rock-solid displays for Liverpool in Europe as they marched all the way to the final of the Europa League.

The France international was excellent at Old Trafford and in Dortmund as Klopp's emerging force knocked out Manchester United and the German's former side en route to Basel where they were beaten by Sevilla.

Sakho's growing reputation as something of a cult-hero grew significantly when he netted against Everton and in the stunning comeback against Dortmund at Anfield in April 2016.

"The fans never leave us and they always, always shout. And I think together, it is a win for the Liverpool country," he famously said after the game.

He endeared himself further when he and Divock Origi snuck a selfie into the picture gallery of Reds fan Liamie Marum after the supporter had lost his phone on the pitch in the chaos that followed the win against Dortmund.

But if April 2016 marked the high point of Sakho's time at Liverpool, it would also signal the one of the lowest when he was hit with a doping ban at the end of the month.

An initial sample revealed traces of a fat-burning substance, he decided against having another tested before he was provisionally suspended for 30 days.

He would miss the Europa League final against Sevilla the following month and was absent for France's European Championships squad later that summer.

From there, the Sakho story would take only sharp downturns at Anfield.

Returning from the ban, a new page was meant to be turned as Sakho tried to quietly fight the World Anti-Doping Agency while getting his football back on track.

Cleared of his violation in July - a incident that would later see him receive an apology from WADA - Liverpool's pre-season trip to the USA should have been the ideal chance to start afresh after a turbulent couple of months.

It would only serve to accelerate the decline from which there would be no coming back.

Sakho had been receiving treatment on an Achilles injury when he fell foul of Klopp's in-house discipline, Stateside.

Concerns had been raised about his attitude around the club's training camp which prompted his swift return to Merseyside on Klopp's say-so.

It's never been explicitly detailed as to why Sakho was sent packing back across the Atlantic, but he was said to have nearly missed the outbound flight before skipping a rehabilitation session and turning up late to a team meal.

The class clown for whom the lesson never ended, Sakho's antics in California were the final straw. Even for Klopp, patience had worn thin.

The defender was banished to the Under-23s and he would never play for the first team again, even when Klopp's backline came under the most stern scrutiny in the weeks and months before the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January 2018.

WADA confirmed they would not be appealing against UEFA's decision to absolve Sakho in August of that year before he was told he needed to leave on loan if he wanted to continue playing top-level football.

The writing was on the wall as far as his Liverpool career went, but Sakho failed to secure a move before the transfer deadline passed.

Both Stoke and West Brom were interested, but a move failed to materialise. The centre-half was uninterested in what he viewed as a significant step down to either.

Instead, Sakho was left with the unedifying situation of a half-season with the club's Under-23s at the Kirkby Academy.

A 3am post to his Snapchat account was also ill-advised as Sakho aired his frustrations surrounding the situation.

"Now it's 3 weeks I am fit to play games." he posted. "I finish[ed] all my rehabilitation work.

"They don't want me to play also with the segonde team (U23s) lol! Why? I don't know.

"[I am] Still working hard like [a] Scouse soldier! Still not talking [because] I want to speak on the pitch...I will speak soon for the people who support and me and don't understand the situation.

"I accept my situation but I can't accept the lie...The fans deserve to know the truth! Thanks for your support."

After the suspension in April, it would be over five months before Sakho would play again as he returned to action in the low-key setting of Prenton Park for the U23s against Wolfsburg.

Those who trained with Sakho spoke of his professionalism and dedication as he took the young players by surprise with his willingness to turn out for U23s.

But if Sakho was hoping a reprieve would be on the cards with Klopp, he would be mistaken.

As January arrived, Sakho was mercifully put out of his Liverpool misery when he agreed a loan move to Crystal Palace.

Like West Brom and Stoke - the two clubs Sakho had rejected in the summer - the Frenchman might have privately viewed Palace as another step down, but after nine months of inactivity at elite level, he accepted the proposal.

"Right now it's a new page for me," Sakho said. "When I have a new shirt I always give my best."

It was believed the presence of Christian Benteke, his former Anfield team-mate, was an important figure in Sakho's decision to move to Selhurst Park.

Such was Sakho's form in south London that Palace made him their record signing when he moved on a permanent deal in the summer of 2017 for around £25m.

He left the club in 2022 summer along with a host of other stars whose contracts had expired.

In 2023, it's difficult to truly assess where Sakho's stock lies at Liverpool.

Between his detractors and those who championed his case, Sakho was a player who always divided opinion.

To some, he was good enough to have marshalled a defence for years at Anfield, while others thought of him as an accident that was always waiting to happen.

Sakho is looking for another new club, after he announced on social media that he would be leaving Montpellier after a falling out with the club's manager. That was back in November and heads into this summer unattached and unwanted after an eventful career.

A version of this article was first published in February 2021.