Louis Saha: Looking At The Injuries And Assessing The Risk Involved

Louis Saha has had his fair share of injury problems, however, has remained a fair regular goalscorer. So is he worth the risk?

"I would consider going to Sunderland." - So spoken were the words of Louis Saha this week. The Frenchman, now thirty-three, finds himself on the free market, following his release from Tottenham at the end of the season following a six month spell there.

Despite no doubt sizeable wages, Saha is a realistic option for Martin O'Neill and Sunderland. He boasts eleven consecutive seasons of Premier League experience - scoring 112 goals across the same time period.

He is, of course, not getting any younger, but that doesn't seem to have been a mitigating factor just yet. His brief stint at Spurs yielded four goals from just eleven games (three from nine in the league), and he looked as sharp as ever.

The one main problem with him, and the one which almost immediately springs to mind upon hearing his name, is his proneness to getting injured.

How much of the supposition that he is "made of glass" is an exaggeration? Let's have a look.

According to reputable site transfrmarket.co.uk, Saha has suffered six different bouts of injury since the beginning of the 2007/08 season. Unfortunately, the data on this site for injuries only goes back that far.

It still makes for interesting reading. On three different occasions, Saha has found himself in the treatment room for what are rather ambiguously described as 'knee problems'. In total, knee troubles have seen him sit out some five months of the regular footballing season.

His three other injuries have consisted of a 'strain' keeping him out for a month in 2008, a two-week calf problem in September of the same year, and then a malleolar injury (that's commonly known as a knackered ankle, to laymen like you and me) which saw him miss the final two months of the 2010/11 season.

Going back a bit further, it is fairly common knowledge that his Manchester United career was hampered by a spate of injuries - again, it was usually his knees that were the culprits. A brief perusal of his injury history whilst at Old Trafford doesn't paint the best picture for the striker; he seemed to be the victim of misfortune at key stages in several seasons.

So, is he worth the risk?

A look at his career goals record would suggest so. 159 goals in 471 games in all competitions is a ratio slightly better than one every three games. Considering he has played much of his career at the top level of English football, and not always been first choice, this points to a bit of a free transfer bargain.

The problem of course, is that he is unlikely to make it an entire season without picking up a knock or two. Now entering the twilight of his career, his body's skills of recovery are only going to slow down. Given that they clearly weren't the best to start with, it is hard to believe that - should he sign for Sunderland - he would be able to undergo a year (or however long his contract lasts) without a few visits to the treatment room.

Sunderland should be especially wary of injury prone players given the number of them at the Stadium of Light in recent years. Looking at just last year's squad, there is a huge number that must surely by now be on best mate terms with head physios David Galley and Peter Brand.

Craig Gordon was released due to his inability to keep fit - in spite of the heavy outlay the club paid for him. Captain Lee Cattermole is no stranger to medical maladies. Nor is David Meyler. Fraizer Campbell. Titus Bramble. Michael Turner. Connor Wickham.

Going back a bit further, who could forget John Mensah? A superb centre-back, strong as an ox, yet seemingly the only human representation of a papier-mâché man. In the end the club decided they simply couldn't justify keeping him on a permanent basis. The risk outweighed the reward.

The same could easily be said for Saha.

There is, however, some hope. For all his troubles, the French frontman is actually in the midst of his best injury-free run since his career began. Aside from that ankle problem at the end of the season before last, and needing to regain fitness upon moving to Merseyside, Saha's three and a half year spell at Everton was devoid of any other injuries. Often playing as a lone striker, he produced a goal ratio of somewhere around one in every four games, and was largely labelled a success for the Toffees.

Furthermore, his spell at Spurs went off without a hitch. The club's decision not to retain him may have others wondering, but provided he stays fit, Saha certainly seems to fulfil his role ably.

Of course, that 'provided' is key. Louis Saha could well turn out to be an excellent twilight signing for Sunderland. But, given their injury troubles of the past, the club will have to be sure of his fitness before putting pen to paper.

Upon signing for Everton in 2008, Saha signed a two year long "pay-as-you-play" deal. It seems logical for Sunderland, if they do decide it's worth the risk, to offer him something similar.

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