Mamadou Sakho is looking to make a big impact on the club after making his debut against Swansea City in Monday’s 2-2 draw.
The decision to leave his beloved Paris Saint-Germain was not taken lightly after spending over a decade at his home town club.
Club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi even went as far as to describe him as “a child of the club” earlier this summer and was keen for the big defender to stay at PSG.
But with Brazilian pair Thiago Silva and Alex already occupying the two starting berths and the arrival of £30m Marquinhos from Roma, Sakho had decided it was time to move on to new pastures.
“Of course coming here was a big step for me,” said Sakho.
“I’d been with Paris Saint-Germain from the age of 12 but there comes a time in every player’s life when you have to make some career choices.
“I had achieved everything I had wanted to do with Paris Saint-Germain. We had won the title, and I made the decision a while ago that I wanted to take on something else.
“I knew I wanted to experience a different culture and learn new things and when Liverpool came in for me I was easily convinced. I was happy to leave in the end.
“It’s all going well for me here so far. I’ve settled in quickly. I left Paris to join an ambitious club and I’m very excited about the project here.”
Sakho grew up in the Goutte d’Or neighbourhood of Paris – which was nicknamed ‘Little Africa’. He showed signs of his talent from a young age, but he wasn’t channelling his abilities and was threatened with removal from the PSG academy.
He even considered quitting the sport when just fourteen after his father passed away, but he decided to use it as inspiration to push him on and show a new dedication – and he managed to break into the first team just three years later and the tender age of seventeen.
“I grew up in an area of Paris that isn’t all sweet and nice,” he said.
“At that age, you have to put yourself about a bit and earn some respect. When I was 14 I tried to impose myself a bit on the other players around me, but it was soon made clear to me that I needed to focus and concentrate, go to bed early and work hard.
“It was a bit physical, a bit verbal. I was just a teenager. It was made clear that if I didn’t step back in line, I would be in trouble.
“When you are that age, your mum can say ‘you have to be in bed by 10pm’ but the man at the youth centre telling me?The response was what you would expect – ‘you are not my dad, who are you to tell me?’
“But I soon learned that I had to focus. I had to conform and do the right thing. It was for my own good.
“The rebellious phase was a bit before the death of my father but I decided after that to take a step back and I concentrated on becoming a professional footballer. Life was pretty hard at that time but I took it on as an obligation to myself to become a pro and all that comes with it.
“I wanted to provide for my family and, at the same time, indulge my passion for football.”
Sakho went on to play over 200 times for PSG and was named captain – making him the youngest in the club’s history.
But things went downhill for him after the club started spending vast fortunes of money on new signings under the current Qatar based regime.
“There is a big project underway there and that reflects their ambition, but my situation was based more on my desire to genuinely compete and that is something I know I will have at Liverpool,” he said.
“It was an impulse to leave Paris Saint-Germain. There are so many new players coming into the club but they didn’t push me out. It was all about me wanting to go out and compete.
“They are two different styles, the influx of big money or building player by player to fill out the squad.
“The Paris model was very business-minded in that sense. But I have come here to a club that functions with a family mentality. That is what suits me and I feel already that we have everybody in this family group and we are all heading towards the same goal.”
Sakho could have made himself an even richer young man by signing a new deal with the French club or waiting until next Summer to leave and cash in on a Bosman free move – but he jumped at the chance to switch to the Premiership with Liverpool.
“For me the price they paid is of no significance,” he said.
“Personally I am not bothered by it. I have been brought here to fill a need of the club. The most important thing is to come here and wear the shirt with pride and to take the club as high as possible.
“I came here for the football, not the money. I had a year left on my contract and in four months I could have signed for someone on a Bosman. I put football and the chance to move here above personal gain.
“There are a lot of very good players at Liverpool and the club has shown great ambition for this season. They have big ambitions for the Premier League and obviously the clear objective of qualifying for the Champions League.
“That appealed to me as did the chance to move to another country and to another culture. I think I will be suited to the English style of play too.
“For me, the Premier League is the best competition in the world. It demands a great deal of rigour and concentration from all players and that can only help me develop as a person and as a player.
“I felt I had done it all with Paris and that it was time for me to turn the page. This is a new page in the history of Liverpool and for me – I want to make my mark on that page.”