In 2007, Liverpool fans had a song that paid homage to the "best midfield in the world." While the validity of that boast was questioned by some outside of Anfield, the mere fact that such a claim could not be immediately scoffed at was evidence enough of the undoubted quality that Liverpool possessed in the middle of the pitch.
As the song explained: "We've got Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko, Gerrard and Mascherano-oh-oh." Quite a quartet, wasn't it? Liverpool reached the final of the Champions League that year, largely on the back of the strength of their midfield, as well as a solid back four. To put it in some kind of perspective, the side that lost to AC Milan in Athens in 2007 had a front three of Jermaine Pennant, Dirk Kuyt and Bolo Zenden. You might want to read that last sentence again just to let it sink in.
Lucas Leiva would arrive to further bolster the midfield ranks that summer, but he was little more than an afterthought in his early years and was some distance behind the others. And to be brutally honest, if those players had remained at the club, he'd still be some distance behind most of them. The one exception would appear to be Mohamed "Momo" Sissoko, currently without a club after being released by Paris Saint-Germain.
Given his less-than-stellar final year at Anfield and the way his career has gone since his departure, it's easy to forget just how good Sissoko was at one time. Certainly, the Sissoko of 2006 vintage would be a huge asset to Liverpool's present midfield, but for whatever reason the 2013 version is struggling to find a home, despite being only 28 years old.
The Mali international was a revelation after joining Liverpool from Valencia, and his monstrous display in the FA Cup final win over West Ham is often overlooked due to the heroics of Steven Gerrard. That game is understandably known as "the Gerrard final" and yet -- the captain's goal heroics aside -- Sissoko was comfortably Liverpool's best player over the 120 minutes. With players dropping like flies due to cramps, Sissoko's incredible stamina and running power kept Liverpool in that game. He was everywhere, and at just 22 he appeared to have a big Anfield future ahead of him. Circumstances would dictate otherwise.
The following season, Momo suffered two serious injuries, and his role as the midfield enforcer was taken on by Javier Mascherano, signed initially on loan from West Ham United in January 2007 before making the move permanent the following summer. Mascherano's quality meant that the young Mali international was never able to force his way back into the side. There's no shame in that, as there probably wasn't a defensive midfield player in the land who could have kept Mascherano on the sideline at that time. Except Hayden Mullins, of course, and even he must have been wondering exactly what Alan Pardew was thinking with that one.
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