Calls for Klopp to bring Sakho back to Liverpool to partner Lovren are a waste of breath

Think Jürgen Klopp and what first springs to mind? A grin wider than the Mersey Tunnel? A booming laugh that can make even an Evertonian crack a smile? A perma-state of joviality?

There’s no doubting charm and the charisma are central to the jack-in-the-box German’s management model. You’ve seen the bear hugs, bore witness to the back slaps and listened to the liberal use of nicknames to describe his players.

Klopp’s friendliness fosters warmth and closeness alien to authoritarian managers like Rafa Benitez, a manager who infamously kept his distance from those he schooled on the training ground.

But for all Klopp’s grinning formula there is a dark side of the loon – a ruthlessness rarely referenced.

And that’s a trait that makes any renewed debate over Mamadou Sakho as a Liverpool player unnecessary – man-of-the-match performances or not.

That the centre half, a £19million signing from PSG in 2013 and a player with 28 caps for France, is capable of shining for Crystal Palace came as no surprise. What is surprising is that his good performances prompted criticism for Klopp, or further, talk of an Anfield redemption for Sakho.

Amid the giggles and guffaws, the Liverpool manager is no soft touch. This is no teacher left to pick a cock and balls Post-it note from his back after the pupils have left for the day.

On his first day at Liverpool, Klopp said: “I know what I want. First I need to talk to the players to find a common way. We will find that and who wants to do what I propose. Whoever wants to do what I want can be a good friend of mine. And it is not so bad a thing to be a friend of mine."

The iron fist in velvet glove message was clear, the threat left unspoken. 

Just last month Klopp said: “I am not a clown – even though a few people think I am. I am not always laughing like crazy, I am a normal person. It is not about laughing the whole week and ignoring the problems you have.”

Sakho became a problem for Klopp. A big one. And he didn’t ignore it. 

The defender’s UEFA charge for taking a fat-burning substance was ultimately dropped. But the fact remains he missed key games at a key stage as a consequence as Liverpool deemed dropping him the right thing to do while an investigation took place.

Crucially, the substance that caused the fuss was taken without the knowledge of the club’s medical staff. And quite why a professional footballer felt the need to take a diet pill in the first place is another question mark. 

Sakho has history for poor discipline, falling out with Carlo Ancelotti over his diet at PSG and once walking out of Anfield after not being selected by Brendan Rodgers for a Merseyside Derby. All that preceded angering Klopp on a string of occasions. 

Fans might look at Liverpool’s defensive issues this season and wonder whether the Frenchman could have helped to shore things up. A fit and firing Sakho in the right state of mind undoubtedly could have aided the squad but the bigger picture is the culture and environment Klopp is trying to nurture.

Some wonder about a second chance, yet that’s exactly what Sakho got on Liverpool’s pre-season tour of America. His reaction was to turn up late for team meetings and a recovery session and he was duly sent home. 

Sakho’s impromptu interview with his manager at Alcatraz, when Klopp said he could leave the defender there, was in hindsight an indicator that his patience with the defender was wearing thin.

Nothing since has suggested a warming of the waters. Sakho trained with the Under-23s before turning down August loan moves to Stoke, West Brom and Besiktas, despite his manager publicly telling him to take the chance.

A late-night rant on Sakho’s Snapchat referencing “lies” followed in September and the stand-off stayed in place until the defender packed his bags for Palace in January.

Like Klopp’s no-nonsense treatment of Mario Balotelli, who despite being fit wasn’t even offered the chance of a pre-season game to shine under the German, it’s clear a dead-eyed display of discipline is on show.

After all that has come before how now could Sakho’s return be explained? How are manager and player supposed to work together again with no reference to what has come before?

Sam Allardyce has gambled a £2m loan fee on the man who once captained PSG aged 17 helping Palace out of a predicament. So far so good for Sam and Sakho. Good for them.

But as the man with the briefest of England reigns said himself, he once managed the spit-loving El Hadji Diouf and got something out of him. But Sakho, like Diouf, let Liverpool down. And Sakho, like Diouf, is likely to be best remembered away from Anfield.

Some will continue to protest there is another way. But it’s a pointer for every player still at Liverpool; a mark in the sand, a line you don’t cross.

Klopp said himself less than a month into the job at Anfield: “If you are full of motivation as a player, if you are full of concentration, full of readiness and passion as a player, I’m not hard. I am open arms and give you a last kick, maybe!

“If you are not, of course [I am hard], but only because to work with players who don’t understand the professional part of this life, it is a little bit of a waste of time. If they are very young, I can help of course, I can talk about this, give you one chance, two chance, three.

“Five [chances] if you are of another age and some other managers have tried it before, then it’s a waste of time.”

Sakho has had his chances. Now he's a waste of time.