Date: 5th September 2013 at 3:50pm
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New Liverpool signingWHEN you’re not in the Champions League, Champions League level players are pretty tough to acquire.

Liverpool have learnt that the hard way this summer. Several ambitious targets have slipped through their net during the transfer window but eventually they have landed a prized catch. His signing may have been overshadowed by the deadline day deals involving Gareth Bale and Mesut Ozil, but Mamadou Sakho’s transfer to Liverpool feels pretty significant for a couple of reasons.

First of all, Liverpool have brought in a potentially world class player and that is never to be sniffed at. Sakho has been regarded as one of the most promising centre-halves in Europe for years. His early career was extremely impressive and before PSG went out and bought their Brazilian trio of centre-backs (Thiago Silva, Alex and Marquinhos), Sakho was undoubtedly their main man.

Carlo Ancelotti and now Laurent Blanc may have preferred to marginalise their former captain in favour of those big signings from South America but Sakho remains a quality player with exceptional promise and many PSG fans disagreed with his relegation to the bench, and indeed his sale.

He’s young, quick, extremely physical and very experienced at the top level both internationally and in club football. If you’d said to a PSG fan 18 months ago that they would let their home grown captain leave in the near future they’d have thought you were crazy. Sakho was an icon for their club like Steven Gerrard is on Merseyside. Paris’ loss should be Liverpool’s gain. He’s had some difficult times of late at his hometown club but he is moving to Liverpool with the intention of participating in next summer’s World Cup for France. He should be motivated and if he’s on top of his game you’d imagine he establish himself as Liverpool’s first choice centre back pretty soon, such is his quality.

Aside from bringing in a potentially world class defender, the way Liverpool concluded this transfer was a little surprising and rather encouraging also.

The deal was concluded in good time and with little fuss which isn’t what many expected when the initial links to the player were made in the press. Make no mistake, lots of other clubs will have been looking at Sakho (he’s long been linked with AC Milan, for example) and he would have been a good a signing most top clubs. This wasn’t a situation like the transfers of Luis Alberto or Iago Aspas where Liverpool nipped in early in the summer and signed a player who was slightly under the radar with little competition. They went out and got a Champions League quality player in pretty decisive fashion. Given how that mid-summer lull of activity at Anfield went, this deal was somewhat of a contrast to what had gone before.

After that initial spurt of four signings early in the summer, Liverpool failed persuade Henrikh Mkhitaryan to join them instead of Borussia Dortmund. That was understandable given Dortmund’s performance in the Champions League last season and their current standing in general. The Reds then failed to prize Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid, another Champions League club. Again, you can’t really blame Costa for sticking with a club in Europe’s elite competition. Finally, Liverpool refused to pay over their valuation for Anzhi Makhachkala’s winger Willian and subsequently missed out on Brendan Rodgers’ remaining ‘marquee’ attacking target.

That Willian deal nearly broke Twitter. Plenty of people were questioning why Liverpool hadn’t gone the extra mile to ensure that they obtained the Brazilian. Willian’s addition would have been exciting and he’d have potentially rounded off a mouth watering attacking quartet alongside Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge. Ultimately though, the transfer committee at Anfield decided against paying over the odds for Willian and Liverpool fans understandably weren’t too happy about it. Many thought that it showed a lack of ambition not to pay top dollar for a top target and frustration was everywhere as Liverpool missed out again.

When you consider all that went on with that Willian deal and the stance that the club ultimately stuck by, it highlights just how differently Liverpool have acted in signing Sakho. They have brought in a very good player but you could easily make the argument that they have overpaid on Sakho’s market value to secure his signature. The circumstances that Sakho was in at PSG certainly suggest that.

First of all, he only had a year left on his deal at PSG, thus obviously decreasing his value significantly. Secondly, he was desperate to leave the French capital to regain his place in his national side. Thirdly, PSG already had three players in his position that they rate higher. Basically, all the cards seemed to be in Liverpool’s hands when it came to negotiating a deal and yet they still paid a pretty large fee of £15m for the player.

This may sound like I’m criticising Liverpool’s approach to the deal but it is quite the opposite. It was refreshing to see Liverpool identify an ambitious target, pay what was needed and get the deal done before we entered Jim White territory.

Too often Liverpool have dithered in the transfer market and it has cost them. We’ve seen it this summer too, much to everyone’s chagrin. Perhaps the club have finally realised that sometimes you have to pay a little extra to acquire your top targets and ensure that no other clubs can hijack a deal as negotiations drag on. It is to be hoped that Sakho’s arrival is evidence of Liverpool learning some lessons and revising their strategy slightly. It’s a shame that this didn’t happen with attacking targets like Willian but at least the club finally got the experienced centre-back that Brendan Rodgers’ has craved all summer long.

£15m for Mamadou Sakho looks like a lot of money, but it could prove to be a steal. Hopefully he succeeds and proves to Liverpool’s transfer committee that sometimes in football, you simply get what you pay for.

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