dari Changkat Ning
Thank you Sami Hyypia for 10 years of service for Liverpool FC ...
SOME Anfield institutions are rated by the number of great games they have played for the club.
It would be more accurate to count the number of great seasons Sami Hyypia has performed in a Liverpool shirt.
The Finn joined Liverpool in May 1999 from unheralded Dutch side Willem II.
Almost a decade later he is firmly established as one of the most consistent and selfless servants of the modern era at Anfield.
As conspicuous as he was on the field – standing six feet four inches with a shock of blond hair – Hyypia preferred to stayed out of the spotlight off it.
But the Anfield fans were always keenly aware of his colossal contribution to the Liverpool cause.
His efforts did not go unnoticed in his homeland, too, where was crowned footballer of the year a magnificent seven times.
All of which makes his transfer fee of £2.5million one of the bargains of modern times.
By the time he arrived at Anfield Hyypia already had seven years as a professional behind him.
His career began with MyPa, where he spent three years and won two Finnish Cups. An international debut arrived aged 19 against Tunisia in November 1992. Sixteen years on, he’s well on the way to 100 caps.
In 1995 Hyypia enjoyed a trial at Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle. Perhaps fortunately, given the cavalier nature of King Kevin’s football teams, it would be another four years before he would grace the Premier League.
In between times he joined Dutch side Willem II, where he was soon installed as captain.
The big defender’s final act before heading to Merseyside in 1999 was to help Willem to secure Champions League qualification.
He made his Reds debut at Sheffield Wednesday on August 7, 1999, a 2-1 triumph – and quickly formed a watertight partnership with Stephane Henchoz.
The Hyypia-Henchoz platform was the foundation for a historic Cup treble in 2000-01.
The centre-half wore the captain’s armband through much of this momentous campaign in the absence of the injured Jamie Redknapp. He jointly lifted both the UEFA and FA Cups.
Following the departure of Redknapp in April 2002, Gerard Houllier handed his trusty defender the captaincy on a permanent basis. When he was replaced by the emerging Steven Gerrard in October 2003 his reaction spoke volumes for his character.
“Of course I am not happy about it,” he declared. “There was nothing dramatic over changing the captaincy. I didn’t say anything because it was the manager’s decision and I respect that.
“I believe that captaincy will bring Gerrard to a new level. He’s a young and talented English player, who has a great future ahead of him.
“I am not happy about our start to the season. We have to play better and we will do that. If the change of captaincy helps, then it’s a good decision.”
Hyypia’s reaction made it a good decision. With the arrival of new boss Rafael Benitez in 2004 came numerous personnel changes, although it was clear Hyypia was going nowhere.
However, he did have a new central-defensive partner in Jamie Carragher, who was at last given a regular slot in his preferred position. Within 12 months they were regarded as one of the most formidable pairings on the continent following Liverpool’s Champions League triumph in the Ataturk Stadium.
Hyypia scored one of the most memorable goals en route to Istanbul, an unstoppable volley to open the scoring against Juventus in the quarter-finals.
Incredibly, he played every minute of 57 consecutive European games for the Reds from 2001 to February 2006.
The arrival of young centre-halfs Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel provided competition for places as Hyypia entered his twilight years, but despite sometimes missing out, he continued to climb the club’s all-time appearance table.
In December 2008 he overtook Ron Yeats to enter the top 20.
History will undoubtedly judge the big Finn to be one of the club’s shrewdest pieces of business. His collection of winners’ medals is now in double figures and in 2006 defensive partner Jamie Carragher delivered a fitting tribute.
“Everyone talks about foreign players like Zola, Henry and Bergkamp,” he said “but they never look at Sami.
“In terms of consistency he’s well up there with them.
“Maybe he can do something out of the blue every now and again but every week, for nine months of the season, Sami Hyypia is your man.
“He’s one of the best foreign players this country has ever seen.”