Rafa Benitez is now in profit for this transfer window following the sale of Mohamed Sissoko to Juventus for a reported €11m, or £8.2m. Momo flew to Italy briefly from international duty with Mali to undergo a medical and the rest of the formalities and the deal was confirmed today.
Momo was an important member of the Liverpool squad in the early days of his Anfield career, but two major injuries, including the one that left him wearing special glasses on the pitch, saw him struggling to recapture his old form. Eventually we saw Momo struggling more and more and so starting fewer and fewer games, a vicious circle that frustrated the player enough to demand a transfer. He’d only signed a new deal last June, running until 2011.
Liverpool signed the midfielder from Rafa’s former club Valencia in the summer of 2005 for £5.6m. The transfer caused Everton manager David Moyes a lot of grief from his own supporters after he’d announced publicly that his own move to sign the player was all but done. This announcement alerted Rafa to the availability of a player he both rated and had worked with before and he stepped in and hijacked Moyes’ deal.
Momo told Juve’s TV channel of his delight at joining the Italian club: “I’m happy to have joined such an important club; this move certainly constitutes a step forward in my career. I feel very excited to think about the possibility of playing with great players such as Buffon and Del Piero and to work under Ranieri, a great coach who I already know from my time at Valencia.”
Juve director Jean-Claude Blanc said: “He is an important element in the strengthening of our squad. Despite being only 23, Sissoko is a player of great experience having played more than 30 UEFA Champions League matches. He has also played many matches in big leagues and for his country.”
The £8m coming in for Sissoko more than covers the fee for Martin Skrtel who Rafa signed earlier in the month. And it will also help Liverpool keep one of the players that made Momo’s first-team chances so limited, Argentinean star Javier Mascherano. Mascherano is coming to the end of an 18-month loan deal with Liverpool, but the Reds can keep him here for five more years in a £17m deal.
No doubt the owners will pounce on the Mascherano deal for some positive PR, assuming it goes through, but that £17m fee includes Mascherano’s wages for the full five years, and is to be paid in instalments spread over the five years. Although Rafa would like it tied up now, the deal won’t actually kick in until the summer, when the current loan ends. At the moment the only hold-ups are caused by legal issues, Liverpool taking care not to fall foul of Premier League rules on third-party ownership.
Rafa was asked today how Mascherano’s deal was moving along, and said: “It is progressing. Rick Parry has been working on this and Momo Sissoko. We are working hard on Mascherano and maybe we can say something positive in a few days. Really, we don’t need to do anything because the player is already with us; it’s just got to be finished. If we can finish it now, that would be perfect.”
Last year the club signed the player before the transfer deadline, but had to wait for various football bodies to clear the deal before he could play, which meant it was some time after the deadline before he made his debut. Similar delays this season won’t stop him playing: “He is here already and if we don’t do anything he can still play for us. But he wants to stay.”
Rafa also spoke about Sissoko’s departure: “I think it’s a good move for Momo and for us. He is a very good professional and a nice boy. He wanted to play and it’s difficult here with Lucas and Mascherano playing well now, and Xabi Alonso and Gerrard.”
Rafa says there were no disagreements between him and the player: “Everything has been positive. We have four players in this position so it’s good for him and good for us.”
Momo’s 86 appearances for the club saw him score just one goal, but ignoring some difficulties this season, he’ll always be remembered fondly by supporters. And in the words of the banner, “Momo is Boss”. Just not for us any more. Good luck Momo.