Carlo Ancelotti has apparently thrown water on the burning rumors regarding defender Mamadou Sakho. The 22-year-old defender has been recently linked with Manchester City to shore up their back line.
Sakho, who also had reported interest from Arsenal, Liverpool and others over the summer, seems to be going nowhere in January. Sky Sports reported the following Ancelotti comments regarding his young defender:
"Sakho is not in a position to ask to leave. He will stay here because he is an important player."
Ancelotti was also quoted as saying:
"The most important thing is Sakho is training well and being fit. He has greatly improved since last season."
"He can't completely understand the coach's decisions (to leave him out of the side) but that is logical."
Sakho has the package of size, skill and speed that make him a potential long term anchor for a defense. While there is no doubt he still needs some seasoning, his potential is what has teams like Manchester City taking notice.
A fixture in the PSG defense since he was 17, Sakho has endured a lot of bench time since Ancelotti came to Paris. His dip in form in the second half of last season could be contributed to some injuries, and a change in coaching philosophy.
Sakho was looking to leave Paris this summer after the signing of Thiago Silva from AC Milan. With Alex as the other preferred option to pair in the center of the defense with Silva, Sakho's knew his opportunity was small.
To his credit, he performed very well over the first month of the season while Silva was out due to the Olympics. Even when Silva joined the team, Sakho was getting starts with regularity.
This ended over the last month as Ancelotti has gone with the Silva/Alex combination.
The reason for Ancelotti's reluctance to allow Sakho to leave is two-fold.
Sakho is an extremely talented young player who has proved himself capable of being a big time defender. The last thing Ancelotti wants is to let him go and see him achieve his potential elsewhere.
This is compounded by the fact that Sakho is a PSG fan favorite.
Ancelotti understands the pressure to win now, but he also knows he has to be looking toward the future. Sakho is the future of the PSG defense, and allowing him to go will be a mistake.
The second issue is depth. Having three solid center backs is a necessity to compete on multiple fronts. With Alex limping out of Tuesday's game, it is reassuring for a coach to have a player like Sakho who can come in and not have a drop off in defensive play.
Sakho's preference for starting is understandable. If Ancelotti's assessment of Sakho's training and improvement are correct, then it is easy to see him replace the aging Alex as the preferred partner to Silva in the near future.
If Ancelotti is going to continue to be patient with Sakho, then Manchester City, Arsenal, and others will have to look elsewhere in their pursuit of a potentially elite defender.