Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho admits getting to grips with the English language changed his fortunes on the pitch.
The France international struggled to settle in during his first 18 months after arriving from Paris St Germain for £18million in the summer of 2013.
He made 24 appearances in his first season but never really looked comfortable and this campaign started even worse as he walked out of Anfield after not being selected for September’s Merseyside derby and then sustained a thigh injury which sidelined him for three months.
However, since returning in mid-December he has been a virtual ever-present, missing just five matches with another injury, and has made a noticeable improvement.
The 25-year-old puts much of that down to him learning English.
“Do I finally feel happy at Liverpool? Yes, I feel good. The most difficult thing has been the language,” he told L’Equipe.
“I am a man of strong character so when I can’t express myself I am always frustrated, and if I cannot make myself understood it is even worse.
“Some people said that I should be speaking French and that would allow me to release the tension a bit, except that when I spoke in French on the pitch nobody understood what I was saying.
“I said to myself: ‘This is useless – I really must learn’. It took time but now it is very good.”
Sakho has put his fit of pique ahead of the first derby this season behind him and is grateful fans appear to have forgiven him also.
“I said sorry – it is all over,” he added. “In England the supporters don’t hold a grudge. In France, especially, it was talked about a lot negatively.”