by Sidd Patel
The seasons end is nearing and already we are all thinking about the next one. Our thoughts will be consumed of all the glories, disappointments and ‘what ifs’ of the previous season and pitting them against our hopes and expectations for the next one. The summer will go by amid a frenzy of speculations on which players will be going where, the managers merry-go-round, and a piece in every paper from every pundit up and down the country giving their ‘expert opinion’ on what we can expect for the forthcoming season. To be fair……that’s exactly what we want!
But hold on a moment…before we get ahead of ourselves….from time to time it’s important that we take a look back, and not just at the previous season but at a collection of previous seasons. I say this because on Sunday a living legend will grace Anfield for the final time as player.
For 10 years he has been a loyal servant to the club he has supported since he was a child. In May ’99 initially spotted by a cameraman he was signed for £2.5 by Gerard Houllier as an unknown quantity. At 25 years old many believed he couldn’t possibly help to solve the defensive frailties of a poor leaky Liverpool defence, especially when you consider he had an unsuccessful trial at Newcastle a few years before. However, a few games into the season any previous concerns where dismissed. At 6ft 4in this colossus went on to captain Liverpool and winning nearly every club honour available to him, including co-captaining Liverpool to a historic cup treble in 2000-2001. Making over 460 appearances and scoring 30+ goals over 10 years he is a true legend and an epitome of what a Liverpool player should aspire to be. His name is Sami Hyypia.
The seven time Finnish Footballer of the Year is arguably the single most important signing in over decade and his importance to Liverpool Football Club during this time cannot be overstated enough. Though never blessed with natural pace, Sami Hyypia’s reading of the game is second to none. Imperious in the air and ferocious yet adept in the tackle his all round defensive skills were evident to all so much so that he was barely troubled earlier in the season when Liverpool routed crushed Man Utd 4-1 at Old Trafford.
The effect of Sami Hyypia’s presence at Liverpool can also be seen in players around him. Houllier when signing Hyypia also signed Stephane Henchoz from Blackburn. Together, in their very first season, they formed arguably the best central defensive partnership in the Premiership. This was to continue for a few season however at the time Jamie Carragher was also being groomed as future centre back. His performances to date however had made many wonder if he could successfully make this position his own. Like Hyppia, Carragher too was not blessed with natural pace, however, alongside Sami Hyypia Jamie Carrragher developed into a complete defender/leader he is today and like Henchoz before him a new central defensive partnership comparable to the best in the league was formed.
As with all great players ‘Father Time’ does catch up and as a result Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel were soon drafted in. In 2009, due to his wealth of knowledge, Sami Hyypia was offered a contract extension at Liverpool which included him being given a coaching role that would further help to mature the talents of Agger and Skrtel as well as youth players of the Academy. With ever decreasing playing time in the Liverpool first team offers came in from other clubs for the giant Finn and the lure of playing regular first team football in the twilight of his career was one that he couldn’t turn down. With this in mind who could begrudge this colussus a chance to extend his playing career at a top club, so a free transfer to Bayer Leverkusen was arranged.
I’m sure every Liverpool fan across the world would like to wish Sami all the very best at his new club and thank him for all he has done over the years. The legend that is Sami Hyypia will surely be missed but hopefully not for too long…I’m hopeful sooner rather than later we’ll see him back at Liverpool coaching our stars of the future.
Sami Hyypia you’ll never walk alone!!!