Liverpool signing proved Jamie Carragher wrong before being reduced to tears by fans

 

The summer of 2005 was filled with euphoria for Liverpool.

In May, an incredible and historic Champions League triumph over AC Milan meant the Reds were the cream of Europe once again. Under the stewardship of Rafa Benitez, the club had the opportunity to build on its success in Europe in the summer transfer window by bringing in players to challenge for further silverware.

One of the players brought to Merseyside that summer was Mohamed ‘Momo’ Sissoko. Signing from Valencia, in a £5.6m deal, the Mali international was someone that Benitez

There were high hopes for the then-20-year-old. Signed to be Benitez’s new holding midfielder and to partner Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso, those connected to the club were hoping Sissoko would have a similar effect on the Reds that Patrick Vieira did at Arsenal.

“He’s a young central midfielder who plays a high-energy game with a high tempo,” Benítez said at the time of Sissoko’s signing. “He’s young, he’s not bad on the ball and he will improve the balance of our team. He’s had two good years with Valencia where he has won trophies. I know him well and he’s a very good player.”

His first two seasons at Liverpool saw Sissoko make 73 appearances, winning the FA Cup and reaching a Champions League final along the way. But his injury record and the arrival of Javier Mascherano led to speculation that he could be leaving Anfield. However, on this day (June 28) in 2007, that speculation was put to rest. Sissoko put pen to paper on a four-year deal that ran until 2011.

“It was never in my thoughts to leave Liverpool,” he said when he signed his new contract. “I read about the speculation linking me with other clubs but I am already at a big big club and it’s an honour for me to be able to call myself a Liverpool player.

“I am injury-free and although I know I’ll face a battle for a place in the team as we have so many great midfielders I’m prepared to fight for a position. It obviously gave me a huge boost to my confidence that the manager believes in me and wanted me to stay at the club. Now I want to repay him on the pitch.”

Unfortunately, Sissoko would see out just a few months of that new four-year deal. In January 2008, he was sold to Juventus for £8.2m, after playing just 14 times in the first half of that season.

Sissoko would end his Liverpool career with 87 appearances to his name and just a single goal, which came in a 2-0 win over Sunderland in his final season at Anfield.

One player who Sissoko did not impress when he arrived at Liverpool was Jamie Carragher. The Reds legend, years after retiring as a player, admitted that he did not like what he saw from the new boy in his first training sessions at the club. But that changed over time.

Carragher told Sky Sports in 2020: “More often than not at Liverpool the top players settled really quickly, but I can think of a couple. I think Momo Sissoko was one. He ended up being a really good player for us in midfield. A destructive type of player, not great technically. But in his first few training sessions he looked really poor with the ball.

“People always wonder what it’s like when new signings come in, and pro footballers at the top clubs, or at any level, we’re all the same as when you’re with your mates at five a side. If someone comes in new, and the first few passes they give it away or they’re struggling with the ball, you’re all looking at each other thinking, ‘oh, what have we done? What have we got here?’ I think that was definitely the case with Momo Sissoko.”

While Sissoko’s time at Anfield may largely be a case of what might have been, plenty of Liverpool fans still remember him fondly. You only have to go back to the summer of 2019, when several Kopites outside the ground were asked their views on the player.

Sissoko was on punditry duty for RMC Sport and he watched on as one Red said: “One of our cult heroes at Liverpool. Momo, thank you for your time at Liverpool. You were a great player and the fans absolutely loved you.” Another said: “Everybody loves him and I think he endeared himself to the fans very much and his passion was great on the field.”

After hearing some of the comments, Sissoko was reduced to tears, admitting that it was “heartwarming”.

 

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