In 25 years of the Premier League, the closest Liverpool have come to lifting the title was in 2013/14, when they finished just two points short of eventual winners Manchester City. What made that title charge somewhat surprising was that the Reds did not notably strengthen in the transfer window leading up to the season, so the team which almost landed the Holy Grail was essentially the same as that which floundered to a seventh-place finish the year before. Among the players signed by Brendan Rodgers in the summer of 2013 were Luis Alberto, Victor Moses and Iago Aspas, none of whom made any real impact in a red shirt. Another man to fit into that category was left-back Aly Cissokho, who despite also counting spells at Porto, Lyon, and Valencia on his CV, as well as being capped by France, is seen as somewhat of a comedy figure in these parts.
Cissokho began his professional career at French second tier outfit Gueugnon in 2007/08, where despite the club’s relegation he impressed sufficiently to persuade Portuguese top flight side Vitoria Setubal to sign him. His upward curve continued with a shock transfer to FC Porto six months later, with the club a very strong outfit in European terms at the time. Indeed, he did a sterling job of attempting to shackle Cristiano Ronaldo in a Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United, even if the Portugal superstar did ultimately score the decisive goal in the tie. Cissokho seemed to be on the move again in summer 2009, with AC Milan on the verge of signing him, but complications with the medical scuppered the move. Instead, he moved to a Lyon team that finished ahead of Liverpool in the Champions League group stage, the French side eventually reaching the semi-finals.
Cissokho settled at Lyon, staying for three seasons before joining Valencia. He helped Los Ches to qualify for the Europa League and then was something of a left-field loan signing (literally) by Rodgers in the opening days of the 2013/14 season. The move took many Liverpool fans by surprise, but those of us waiting to see how he would fare were left disappointed as, in his first start for the club in a League Cup win over Notts County, the left-back limped off with an injury after just 10 minutes. He returned to action in October but never really caught fire and the concurrent rise of Jon Flanagan made Cissokho’s task of getting back into the team a whole lot harder. In all, he would only play 19 times for the Reds and was very much a bit-part cast member in the team that almost secured a Hollywood title triumph.
The injury-prone, inconsistent left-back would remain in the Premier League, though, joining Aston Villa on a permanent basis in 2014. His time at Villa Park was similarly frustrating at his Liverpool stint, with injuries and unconvincing performances not endearing himself to a fan base that was growing increasingly disillusioned with an ailing club. He rejoined Porto for a half-season loan in autumn 2015 before being recalled to Villa by Remi Garde. Cissokho was a fringe member of the squad that was relegated in humiliating fashion in 2015/16 and struggled to make an impact in the Championship the following season. Another loan spell followed in January, this time to Olympiakos, and during the summer he signed permanently for Turkish top flight newcomers Yeni Malatyaspor.
Cissokho is still just 29, so the possibility of an Indian summer is not entirely out of the question. Ever since his move to Liverpool four years ago, though, his career has been dogged by injury and disappointing form. While he was unfortunate to be sitting on the sidelines for a large portion of the season in which Flanagan made a sensational breakthrough to first-team football, the sense prevails that Cissokho would never have been a long-term fix at left-back for the Reds, although some would argue that he would still be preferable to current incumbent Alberto Moreno. I’ll leave it to you to debate that one.