The former Liverpool defender coaching his way to the top in the Bundesliga

Former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia is proving he learnt a thing or two from his managers over the years, as his Bayer Leverkusen side continue to impress in the Bundesliga.

When Liverpool spent £2.6million on Sami Hyypia in 1999, their fans had no idea what a bargain they were getting; and not just a bargain, but also a legend.

When the Finnish defender left Anfield a decade later, he was widely regarded as one of their greatest ever signings.

Having been offered a coaching role with the Reds, Hyypia instead opted to join German side Bayer Leverkusen. But the role in which he now finds himself is very much a combination of the offer he took and the offer he didn’t.

Liverpool would have been aware of his coaching potential having watched him for the previous ten years. But it was Leverkusen who would ultimately profit from it.

After finishing his playing career with the German side, he first became their assistant manager, before being given the top position for the last six games of last season; six games that saw four wins and two draws and led Leverkusen to a place in the Europa League.

What he thought was short-term became quite the opposite when he was asked to continue at the helm this season. A situation made complicated by his lack of a managing licence and the necessity of a dual coaching role between himself and Sascha Lewandowski.

And yet it seems to be working perfectly. Leverkusen are currently third in the Bundesliga, only four points behind second-placed Borussia Dortmund. A Champions League place is all but secured. And Hyypia is proving to be as good a coach as he was a player.

He says he learnt the most, tactically at least, from Rafael Benitez. And on his time at Liverpool he recently told the BBC that, “Hopefully I did more good things than mistakes”.

It is a mantra that could just as easily apply to football management.

With players like Hyypia - players who shun the spotlight and simply play the game - it is easy to forget (or never really know) how good they are. For Liverpool fans that was never a problem. But for the rest of us, we would do well to remember that Hyypia was, according to former chief scout Ron Yeats “one of the best bits of business we’ve done…a steal…a bargain”.

And even when he left for Germany, in his first season he was voted defender of the year and was named in the Bundesliga team of the season.

It is no surprise that a player who read the game so well is now coaching others in that art. Next season he may return to England in the Champions League. And further down the line, who’s to say he won’t manage here, too?

What are your memories of Sami Hyypia as a Liverpool player?  And can you see him managing at Anfield one day?

images: © Vincent Teeuwen, © Vincent Teeuwen

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