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How Liverpool's Sakho won over the critics

Inspired as Liverpool drew in Dortmund, defender Mamadou Sakho is winning over fans; UEFA.com profiles the defender who "contradicts the laws of motion with every touch".

Liverpool fans have long been convinced of Mamadou Sakho's talent
Liverpool fans have long been convinced of Mamadou Sakho's talent ©AFP/Getty Images

Born: 13/02/1990

• French league: 2013
• French Cup: 2010
• French League Cup: 2008

• "I grew up in an area of Paris that isn't all sweetness and light," said Mamadou Sakho of his upbringing in Paris's 18th and 21st arrondissements, admitting to being a combative teenager. His father died when Sakho was 14, by which time he was changing his ways. "I took a step back and decided to concentrate on becoming a professional footballer," he said. "Life was pretty tough at that time but I took it as an obligation to become a pro and provide for my family."

• Paris Saint-Germain made Sakho team captain, aged 17, on his debut for the club – a measure of their belief in the defender. "It was too much," he said later. "I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed but what should I have done – not take the armband?" He went on to sparkle over six seasons with PSG, before joining Liverpool in a reported €19m move in 2013.

• First capped in 2010, 'Mama' endeared himself to France fans when Les Bleus overturned a 2-0 play-off first-leg defeat by Ukraine to reach the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a 3-0 home win. Sakho scored the first and last of those goals, celebrating the second in an unforgettably delirious manner.

• Local schoolchildren helped him learn English while Sakho was assisting with French lessons at All Saints Primary School near Anfield. "For the kids it's nice, because they can learn French and I can improve my English." He has since told the press back home that mastering the language has made a huge difference: "When I can't express myself I am always frustrated, and if I cannot make myself understood it is even worse."

Highlights: Dortmund 1-1 Liverpool

• Sakho's gangly style has divided opinion in England. "He can't pass," said television pundit Paul Merson, expressing a view shared by many. "He doesn't look right." If Liverpool fans refute this, so do others outside the club. Midfielder Joey Barton wrote that Sakho "contradicts the laws of motion with every touch – the man is genius". Ex-England striker Gary Lineker agreed: "First thoughts were that he was hopeless, but actually he might just be brilliant."

• Steven Gerrard never doubted his ability. The erstwhile Reds captain texted former team-mate Jamie Carragher with an assessment of Sakho's first week: "He's a beast." Gerrard has continued to track his progress, texting Sakho after he was named Liverpool captain for September's UEFA Europa League game at Bordeaux. "He said: 'Continue to fight like that, I'm proud of you,'" Sakho revealed. "It's always nice to receive such a message from a great player."

• Ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers blew hot and cold over Sakho, who drifted in and out of his lineup. The centre-back caused a scene when, omitted for a derby against Everton in September 2014, he left Anfield before kick-off. He came back stronger, though, saying: "During the short period I was not playing, I was like a caged lion who had not been fed for a while. And when you open the door, he charges."

• Jürgen Klopp has no such doubts about Sakho, placing the 26-year-old alongside Dejan Lovren in his preferred defensive unit, and while there have been flashpoints – Sakho was not too happy to be ordered off as a precaution after clashing heads in February's League Cup final – he is enjoying working under the German. "He's very human, super close to his players and all the members of the club," Sakho said. "He is very expressive, but this is not being mean but to encourage us."