WHEN people talk about the greatest signings of all time, there’s one man’s name that often escapes discussion amidst the talk of the Eric Cantona’s and Francis Jeffers’ of this world; that man’s name is Sami Hyypia.
Sami Hyypia was snapped up from Willem II by Gerard Houllier for a bargain basement Â£2.5m in the summer of 1999. I’d never heard of him, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who wondered who this unknown was when we were crying out for a commanding centre half in the aftermath of the Ruddock and Babb years. He made his debut at Sheffield Wednesday on the opening day of the 1999/2000 season and looked like a leggy newborn giraffe at first sight. Those initial thoughts were soon dispelled, as the past 10 years have proven him to be one of the greatest centre halves this club has ever seen, and one of the best signings we’ve ever made. He’s been that good.
In an age of foreign mercenaries and an era of bling and bentleys, Sami Hyypia has remained the ultimate professional throughout his stay; a shining light to all throughout his Liverpool career, and a brilliant role model for anyone coming into the game. He’s been a superb ambassador for the club, and would now class Liverpool the city as his second home. He’s integrated into the city and the city has engrained itself into the fabric of the Hyypia family forever. It’s just so refreshing to see in the days of modern mercenary football. Sami Hyypia is one of a kind; if only all others were made of the same stuff.
Sami formed a partnership with Stephane Henchoz that will never be forgotten. Those two played a massive part in the unbelievable 2000/2001 season that ended with a treble of League, FA and UEFA Cups, as well as a 4th place finish that took us back into the Champions League. It was a year that’ll live long in the memory, but one that has almost been erased from the memories after Istanbul. It was a glorious season to support Liverpool Football Club, with Sami Hyypia playing a key role in it all. I went to 64 of the 67 games that season, enjoying some of my greatest times following the club, and will always link that season with the rock solid partnership of Hyypia and Henchoz, as well as some of the greatest European trips of modern times. That pairing were the base upon which everything was built. Thank you.
During the run to Istanbul in 2004/2005, Sami Hyypia was an absolute giant at the back alongside Jamie Carragher. While Carragher quite rightly took all the plaudits for this efforts that season, Sami Hyypia quietly continued to deliver top class performances on the field with the minimum of fuss. Benitez brought in the experienced Pellegrino towards the end of that season on a free transfer, and it allowed Sami to sit out several league games in the build up to European fixtures. Pellegrino will never go down as one of the best signings ever made, but he allowed Hyypia to recuperate. The results are there for all to see in the shape of a 5th European Cup, with Sami Hyypia’s volley to open the scoring in the quarter final against Juventus a pivotal point in that European campaign.
He has been our best attacking threat from corners for a decade now, and he is going to be almost impossible to replace in that respect. He offered strength in the air at both ends of the pitch; scoring a few memorable goals throughout his career at Anfield.
The dogs were barking the season following that European Cup success. “His legs have gone”. “He’s finished”. More than a few called Hyypia’s ability to operate at the top level into question, and a few performances around that time had me asking the same questions. How foolish.
3 to 4 years on and he’s still churning out top quality performances each and every time he is called upon. Most recently giving a faultless performance at Old Trafford in the centre of the defence, coming away as 4-1 victors. He can still do it at the top level. Maybe not playing twice a week, but with time to relax and recover between games, he’s still more than capable of marshalling a successful defence at the highest level.
Good luck with Leverkusen Sami. I’m sure you’ll have a brilliant final few years to your exemplary career, and thank you for everything. From the man that stepped into a shaky defence in the late 90’s and held that trio of trophies above your head in 2001, to the rock at the centre of a European Cup winning side in 2005.
Sami Hyypia – Thank you