Sami Hyypiä a Liverpool legend. For many a year one of the Premier league and Europe’s most reliable centre backs, a fantastic aerial ball winner, a great reader of the game and a charismatic leader who endeared himself to some of the most passionate fans in world football.
Most will be aware that the Big Fin after leaving in Anfield, filled his boots in the red of Bayern Leverkusen, between the years 2009- 2011, Hyypiä went about his work in the same manor he did at Liverpool, showing all the assets that had made him so treasured by the Kop. Sami made 53 appearances for Leverkusen in 2 seasons and was a highly influential player in his time with the Löwen, before announcing his retirement at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
Hyypiä, was not done there though such, a highly thought of and admired man, was not going to be able to slope out of footballs back door for a cosy feet up retirement, nor was Hyypiä about to let his burning fire for the game die down. He immediately took a coaching role with the Finish F.A and a role learning from Leverkusen head coach Robin Dutt, but even Hyypiä would not have anticipated such a big managerial role being thrust upon him so quickly, as Dutt departed with the North- Rhine club sitting in 6th place on the 1st of April 2012, Hyypiä and under-19 coach Sascha Lewandowski were named as the managerial duo to take Leverkusen forward.
The choice was somewhat of a strange one Hyypiä did not have a German team trainers licence (meaning he couldn’t coach sessions), and Lewandowski whilst being a very good coach was a virtual unknown, with his only managerial experience being with reserve sides. Hyypiä would pass on advice to the players and talk to the press whilst Lewandowski would lead the coaching sessions. The slightly controversial and un-conventional management team though has gone on to prove many doubters wrong.
Hyypiä and Lewandowski took over and steadied Leverkusen to a 5th place finish in the 2011- 2012 Bundesliga. Last season though is where Hyypiä and Lewandowski really began to make their mark. Many in Germany were left surprised as propelled by the pace and trickery of Andre Schurrle and goal scoring target man Stefan Kiessling Leverkusen secured a 3rd place finish and champions league football, the clubs highest league finish since the 2001 and 2002 season back In the Michael Ballack days. Coupled with the second best defensive record(Surely in some small way down to Hyypiä) ,and the distinction of being the only team to beat the irrepressible Bayern all season, in the Bundesliga you cannot argue with the efforts of Hyypiä and Lewandowski in their debut years of professional management.
Those are the cold hard stats which are impressive no doubt, however these are also been matched by Hyypiä’s management style and media handling. Hyypiä’s cool and calm playing style have translated off the pitch, his defensive know how has also been conveyed to his players , he seems to work well with his team full of young and exciting talent and really looks to be nurturing them into a European force to be reckoned with.
Despite the loss of Andre Schurrle, Hyypiä has made an extremely astute move for Hung-Min-Son and his improvement of Phillip Wollshceid , Omer Toprak, Daniel Schwaab and Leverkusen’s other young defenders has been superb, Leverkusen really have the potential to succeed in next year’s champions league and after 1 year in charge Hyypiä steps away from partner Lewandowski for a lone foray into club management, one which will surely be a successful , Hyypiä was probably one player who had the attributes to become a manager, good at reading the game, cool, calm ,a leader, but the potential he had has really come to fruition with Leverkusen, and if that continues, who’s to say he won’t end up at old club Liverpool one day, at the age of 39 time is on his side.