Liverpool favourite agrees unlikely transfer as eight-month exile ended after unacceptable lie

It’s been 255 days since Mamadou Sakho last played in a competitive game of football.

The former Liverpool defender’s last start came 402 days ago in a 5-4 defeat to Lyon in May 2023, while a six-minute substitute appearance for Montpellier in a 3-0 victory away at FC Lorient on October 1 would prove to be his only appearance of the 2023/24 season.

Having fallen out of favour at the Ligue 1 club during the 2022/23 campaign, he was limited to just 15 league appearances - of which only seven were starts - and was left as an unused substitute on 17 occasions. With his fortunes not improving at the start of the 2023/24 season, his time at Montpellier ultimately came to a premature and unsavoury end.

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Sakho left the club back in November following a training ground altercation with manager Michel Der Zakarian. L'Equipe originally reported that the Frenchman had taken offence after his boss did not award him a foul in training. Later confronted by his coach, who allegedly called him a ‘cry-baby’, the 34-year-old was claimed to have grabbed him and knocked him to the ground.

Only making six appearances following Der Zakarian’s appointment at the club in February 2023, Sakho and Montpellier would subsequently terminate his contract less than two weeks after their November altercation.

"For 10 days, a media frenzy has been created around the club around a 'clash' between Michel Der Zakarian and Mamadou Sakho," Montpellier said in a statement. "Contrary to what has been said and relayed, no precautionary dismissal has been taken against Mamadou Sakho.

“After 10 days of reflection, the parties agreed, in good faith, to put an end to the contractual relationship between them. The MHSC would like to thank Mamadou Sakho for his involvement during his time in Montpellier and wish him, as well as his family, the best for the future.”

However, Sakho, who would decline all responsibility for the clash, would hit out at the club on social media when confirming his own exit.

“You have to know how to leave the table when respect is no longer served,” he wrote on Instagram. “Following the incident that took place last week at the training centre and for which I decline all responsibility, I have decided on this day of 02/11/2023 to end my collaboration with Montpellier Herault Sports Club.”

Sakho has remained a free agent since leaving Montpellier, having not joined a new club following the opening of the January transfer window. However, the 34-year-old has completed an unlikely return to football eight months after he last kicked a ball competitively.

The former Liverpool defender has joined Georgian side Torpedo Kutaisi. RMC Sport claim the 34-year-old has agreed a one-year contract with the club, with his deal also boasting the option of an additional year.

Torpedo Kutaisi, who currently sit second in the Erovnuli Liga and will compete in next season’s Europa Conference League from the first qualifying round, are managed by former Blackburn Rovers manager Steve Kean.

The Georgian club have confirmed that they have agreed terms with the former France international after two months of negotiations in an official club statement on their website.

“The contract with Mamadou Sakho has been agreed,” they wrote. “After Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Montpellier, the next club in Mamadou Sakho's career is Kutaisi Torpedo.

“The 34-year-old football player will arrive in Tbilisi on June 12 and undergo a medical examination. An official signing ceremony of the agreement is planned at New Vision University on June 13 at 15:00.

“Negotiations between Mamadou Sakho and Kutaisi Torpedo lasted for about two months and the parties agreed on all the details of his transfer. The player will not only help Kutaisi Torpedo to win titles, but he will be a kind of ambassador to the international football community.

“Mamadou Sakho will take an active part in the implementation of the club's economic projects, as well as in various public and charitable activities. He will also be involved in the development of the Kutaisi Torpedo Academy together with the manager of the club Steve Kean, will be a mentor of young players and a guarantor of their professional development.”

Sakho will be hungry to make up for lost time in Georgia following his eight months without a club. However, his Montpellier departure is not the first time he has found himself ostracised at a club.

While at Liverpool, he established himself as a firm fan-favourite but missed the end of the 2015/16 season after being hit with a ban for doping, though this was later rescinded and apologised for by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

However, he would never play for the Reds again after being sent home early from a pre-season tour of the United States by Jurgen Klopp for disciplinary reasons. He was said to have nearly missed the outbound flight before skipping a rehabilitation session and turning up late to a team meal, and be banished to training with the Under-23s upon his return to England.

After rejecting summer interest from Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion, he would air his frustrations in an ill-advised post on Snapchat at 3am after recovering from injury.

“Now it's three weeks I am fit to play games. They don't want me to play with segonde (segondo, U23s) team lol,” he wrote. “Still working hard like Scouse Soldier! Still not talking cos I want to speak on the pitch....I will speak soon for the people who support me and don't understand the situation (emoji).

“Still happy to live in my Liverpool Country (emoji) with my family, hope to have chance to play soon to give my best like I try to always do! I accept my situation but I can't accept the lie....the fans deserve to know the true! Thanks for your support (emoji) 6 six months stay quiet. Have good night everybody! You'll never walk alone! (emoji).”

Come January 2017 and the defender belatedly got the hint, as he left for Crystal Palace on loan on transfer deadline day. The move was then belatedly made permanent in September 2017 as he joined the Eagles for £26m. Their fourth bid of the summer for the defender, Liverpool compromised on their initial £30m asking price to move Sakho on.

Initially a success at Selhurst Park, the Frenchman made 75 appearances during his four and a half years at the club. However, often troubled by injury, only six of them came during his final campaign in 2020/21.

Then returning to France with Montpellier, Sakho has now seen his stints with Liverpool, Palace and the Ligue 1 side all end with a whimper. As he belatedly makes his latest comeback in Georgia, he will be hoping his fortunes belatedly improve in unfamiliar surroundings.