In our Transfers that shook the club feature, Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at deals that many may not have seen coming and the impact that they had during their time by using statistical data and pundit remarks.
Last week, Finland celebrated their first-ever qualification for a major tournament after a 3-0 win over Liechtenstein ensured their place at Euro 2020. [via UEFA.com]
Another one of their most famed exports who surpassed a century of caps and won Europe’s premier club competition is defender Sami Hyypia, whose arrival at Liverpool 20 years ago arose from a unusual source.
As noted by BBC, the Finn was recommended to the club’s then-executive vice-chairperson Peter Robinson by a photographer working at Anfield who had heard positive reviews about Hyypia, who at the time was playing for Willem II in Netherlands.
His £2.6m signing by Liverpool in the summer of 1999 didn’t set everyone’s pulses racing, with The Guardian‘s Michael Walker writing about how some fans greeted the news with barbed responses of ‘Sami Who’, with fears that he was “just another foreigner” with no understanding of Liverpool’s traditions.
One man who evidently rated Hyypia was his manager Gerard Houllier, who awarded the captaincy to the Finn in just his second season at the club in the lengthy absence of primary skipper Jamie Redknapp (as per liverpoolfc.com), with that 2000/01 campaign seeing Liverpool lift the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup.
He later succeeded Redknapp as full-time captain when the Englishman left Anfield in 2002, although the armband was passed on to Steven Gerrard the following year. [via liverpoolfc.com]
Hyypia had some bad days for the Reds, including the 4-0 defeat to Manchester United at 2003 in which he was sent off after just four minutes, as per The Guardian.
However, even when Houllier left Anfield a year later, his successor Rafael Benitez kept faith with the Finn as a regular centre-back and moved Jamie Carragher over from full-back to form a partnership with Hyypia.
The season would end with Liverpool triumphing in the Champions League and Hyypia made a key contribution along the way, scoring an ultimately decisive goal in the 2-1 home win over Juventus in the quarter-finals, without which the Reds would have exited on away goals.
A new contract followed in 2005, as did another trophy in the form of the FA Cup a few months later, although the 2006/07 season would be the first in which he played fewer than 30 games for Liverpool.
He would bring up a decade at Anfield by staying on for the 2008/09 season, with the Reds rejecting a £2.5m offer from Stoke (as per Liverpool Echo), but he announced in May 2009 that he would leave that summer for Bayer Leverkusen.
His last hurrah in a Liverpool shirt came on the final day of that campaign, when he replaced Gerrard for the closing minutes of a 3-1 win over Tottenham at Anfield in which he almost scored with a late header. [via BBC]
After the full-time whistle, he broke down in tears as he gratefully accepted the acclaim of thousands of Liverpool fans who formed a ‘Sami’ mosaic in the stands. [via liverpoolfc.com]
His standing in the club’s history is reflected by his placing at number 38 in Liverpool’s 100 Players Who Shook the Kop survey and 19th in a Sky Sports list of the top 50 foreign players in the Premier League (as per liverpoolfc.com).
Ian Rush told the Liverpool Echo that “He’s got to be up there with the best signings the club has ever made”, while Ron Yeats, the club’s chief scout at the time of Hyypia’s departure in 2009, said that his £2.6m signature a decade previously had been “a steal”, as per liverpoolfc.com.
He came to Liverpool being derided by some as ‘Sami Who’. He left 10 years and 464 games later among the top 20 players in the club’s all-time appearances list, having been named the Reds’ Player of the Year seven times. The photographer who recommended him really did have excellent observational skills.
Liverpool fans, can you remember when Hyypia signed? Where do you think he stands among the club’s all-time greatest players? Have your say by commenting below!
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