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Mohamed Sissoko exclusive: “I rejected Barcelona’s offer - I was happy at Liverpool”

Mohamed Sissoko
(Image credit: PA)

Mohamed Sissoko has openly recounted learning a lot from Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez specifically influenced his decision to stay with Liverpool, rather than leave for Barcelona, in the new issue of FourFourTwo.

After joining Liverpool in the summer of 2005 from Valencia, Sissoko received offers across Europe touting his services in the summer of 2007. With Liverpool having won the FA Cup the year before and reaching the Champions League final in 2007, Sissoko most notably rejected Barcelona in favour of staying on Merseyside. 

“I rejected Barcelona’s offer. I received their proposal and we were in advanced talks, but I was happy at Liverpool. I didn’t want to go anywhere and decided to stay. 

“I had a great time with Liverpool – the best game was the FA Cup final against West Ham. We came from 2-0 down to win and lift the cup.”

Although not single-handedly turning the game around, Steven Gerrard’s epic 35-yard screamer lives long in the memory of Liverpool fans. For Sissoko, playing alongside the Liverpool legend was incredible, especially at such a tender age in his early twenties. 

Also next to the defensive midfielder was Spanish maestro Xabi Alonso. Clearly, Sissoko wasn’t found wanting when it came to learning from the best players. 

“I was young and they taught me a lot. They were two masters. Just watching Gerrard in training was a big lesson for me. He was the type of leader who would die for his club and for his city.

“Ahead of the derbies, he used to speak to the whole squad and say, ‘We need to win – I was born here and I’ve got to win. This is my jersey, my club and my city. I could die for Liverpool – now let’s go out there and do what we have to’. He didn’t have to raise his voice or get angry with other players. He had that ability to find the right things to say.”

With Sissoko joining Benitez’s Valencia at just 18-years-old, before following Rafa to Liverpool two years later when he was 20, the pair knew each other very well. Consequently, the Spaniard often made comparisons between Sissoko and Patrick Vieira due to their similar styles as all-action midfielders. However, with Sissoko wanting to make a name for himself, he wasn’t too welcoming of the comparisons.

“When a manager like Benitez says something like that about you, it’s an honour. But I didn’t want to be Vieira. I wanted to be Sissoko – to train and play as well as possible, to become the best player I could. I didn’t feel pressure on account of the comparison. It only pushed me to give my best.”

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