Mamadou Sakho: PSG lacked respect
Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho has told Le Parisien he needed to leave Paris Saint-Germain to boost his international ambitions and that the Ligue 1 champions did not always show "respect" for him.
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Sakho, 23, moved to Anfield in the summer in a 19 million euro move after failing to dislodge either Thiago Silva or Alex in PSG's first-choice centre-back pairing. Recalled to the national side for Friday's friendly with Australia and next week's encounter with Finland, Sakho insisted his choice to move to Anfield had been motivated primarily by his hope of playing for his country again.
"I had to leave Paris to get back into Les Bleus," said Sakho, who had been publicly named by national team coach Didier Deschamps as one of the players not featuring for his club and therefore not called up for August's friendly in Belgium.
"I wanted to show that I'm still up to it and that, above all, I didn't go because of competition for places. At Liverpool there are also very good players in my position. But it's healthy competition. In Paris, it had become more complicated."
His route to the first team became more labyrinthine still with the summer arrival of Brazilian prodigy Marquinhos from Roma for 42 million euros. One of the rare PSG first-team players to have come through the club's youth academy, the Paris-born defender felt his status as a homegrown talent had become more important than his ability.
"I could say a lot of things about certain people in Paris, but it wouldn't serve any purpose. I've put that behind me and closed the door. The day I decided to leave Paris, I just went for it," he said. "My decision was well thought-out. I had seen a lot of things that went against my principles.
"Before being footballers, we're firstly men. In Paris, I didn't always feel respect. I didn't want to feel like a sideshow that is put in one corner to look nice and have the label 'Made in PSG'. And I add that I didn't make a financial choice. If I had, I would have waited until January and left on a free, but no-one could buy my joy of playing."
He has been able to feel that delight in featuring in Brendan Rodgers' starting line-up for the last four Premier League games. Having found his new home near that of team-mate Steven Gerrard, Sakho is beginning to settle into life in England, where Rodgers has already nicknamed him 'Killer'.
However, as his return to Paris to bid a tearful farewell to the PSG fans last month showed, he has not forgotten the club he supported as a boy, even though the fact his emotions got the better of him drew criticism.
"Some people said I shouldn't have done that with regard to Liverpool. To them, I can only apologise for having spent half of my life in Paris, to have had coaches that helped me grow as a man. More seriously, it's clear that I have a very strong bond with PSG and that I didn't leave without emotion," he said.
"At the time of my speech, I thought about my father, Souleymane, who died when I was 13. My mum was in the stand and I said to myself that I would have liked to have also seen my dad watching me at that moment. I know that he would have been proud of his son, and there, the tears began to flow."