Liverpool make low-risk, high-potential Cissokho swoop

The 25-year-old Frenchman arrives at Anfield looking to get his career back on track following testing spells with Lyon and Valencia, but should be well suited to English football

By James Eastham

Liverpool loan signing Aly Cissokho always seemed likely to end up in England. He’s a tall, fast and athletic full-back whose style is arguably better suited to the Premier League than La Liga.

He’s also a player whose career path is extremely unusual. When you see him on the pitch he may appear to be another powerful product of France’s famed youth systems, but he was actually unknown in his home country when he moved to Vitoria Setubal in Portugal in 2008. At the time he was just 20 years old and had made only 22 league appearances in the French second division for Gueugnon, the unfashionable club where he had come through the ranks.

In Portugal he caught the eye of Porto, who bought him six months after his arrival in the country. At Porto he rose to prominence thanks to good performances in domestic competition and the Champions League. This led to a €15 million move to Lyon just 12 months after he had left France for a fraction of that price – but not before AC Milan had rejected the chance to sign him based, they said, on his poor dental health, believing poor teeth can lead to muscular problems later in his career. At Lyon we saw the good and bad of Cissokho’s game. His pace and athleticism enabled him to get up and down the left flank well. His strength meant he could stand up to most opponents.

There was something almost endearing about his all-action style – as though he couldn’t quite believe he’d reached the big time after such an inauspicious start, and was determined to make the most of it. But he could be erratic. At times he would be caught too far forward. Sometimes he appeared to lose his bearings in relation to either his direct opponent or fellow defenders. And while those driving forward runs down the left wing were impressive, there were questions about the quality of service he provided once he got into the final third. In three seasons at Lyon, he scored just once and provided five assists. During the same period, Bordeaux’s Benoit Tremoulinas, another of Ligue 1’s best left-backs, scored four times and provided 13 assists.

The general feeling was Lyon had overpaid for a player that was a non-international when he joined and has won only one France cap since. This view was reinforced when Lyon had to sell him at a €10m (£8.5m) loss to Valencia last summer. In Spain Cissokho made 25 league appearances and scored two goals, but the move didn’t entirely work out as planned. He struggled to develop into one of the team’s key players, and perhaps suffered in comparison to Jordi Alba, who had just left for Barcelona.

So Cissokho is no world-beater – and yet the move to Liverpool makes sense on several levels. The Reds have signed a player with the physical and athletic capacity to adapt to the Premier League. He will be hungry after a difficult year in Spain. He won’t have entirely given up hope of an international recall and will relish the opportunity to measure himself directly against France international left-backs Patrice Evra and Gael Clichy a year before the World Cup in Brazil. He will also offer serious competition to Jose Enrique; at 25 and as a relatively late bloomer he can still improve. And he’s cheap – he arrives on a one-year loan so can be moved on at relatively little loss at the end of the season if things don’t work out.

With only two weeks to go before the transfer window closes and Liverpool desperately needing extra manpower at left-back, signing Cissokho looks like a decent piece of business.

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