Thursday, June 16, 2011
Former Red working towards Anfield return
By Emdad Rahman
Dietmar 'Didi' Hamann holds the distinction of being the last player to score at the old Wembley before the twin Towers were bulldozed to make way for the new and majestic arena that we have today.
Bayern Munich came calling early and Didi from Waldsassen was snapped up at the age of sixteen by one of European football’s biggest clubs.
Amongst a myriad of German superstars, Didi was able to witness and learn from the great Lothar Matthäus. At Bayern he also rubbed shoulders with Jürgen Klinsmann and fellow Red Christian Ziege.
Giovanni Trappatoni recognised Hamann’s distinct midfield ability and gave him an extended run in 1996/97. In a position in the middle of a formation that became a frequent and flourishing pattern of play – Hamann’s presence allowed the mercurial Mario Basler to take centre stage and wreak havoc on opposing rearguards.
It was King Kenny that gave Didi his Premiership breakthrough – signing him for Newcastle for £5.5 million. Gerard Houllier followed suit by shelling out £8 million to lure Didi from St James' Park to Anfield in 1999.
At Anfield, the midfield general became the steadying influence, the right presence for the likes of Gerrard to embark on free spirited midfield rampages.
With a wiry frame, Didi was a highly intelligent player, with vision and an invaluable and calming influence. His slender build and long rangy stride were used to great effect to enforce and break down opposition attacks. Attacking forays often ended with a blistering shot on goal.
In 2001 Didi featured prominently in Gerard Houllier’s F.A Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup winning teams. In 2002 The Bavarian Bomber also became the second Liverpool player since Roger Hunt to play in the World Cup final.
Didi’s greatest game was in Istanbul during that unforgettable Champions League final. With the Reds 3-0 down against a seemingly rampant Milan, Rafa sent on Didi to replace Finnan, to quell the threat of Kaka and avoid total annihilation.
Liverpool’s reshaped midfield allowed Gerrard to revert to his ram raiding best. Didi’s sense of movement and awareness of play, coupled with a solid holding presence allowed Gerrard and the creative Alonso and Smicer to run riot. It was a beautiful substitution and the catalyst for the greatest football comeback of all time.
Didi also scored from the shootout and it later transpired that he had played out the game with a broken toe. He said later: "About five minutes from the end of extra-time this sudden pain told me there was something wrong.
"When I took my penalty, all that mattered was that I scored. I remember the Liverpool team doctor putting some ice on it afterwards but we were walking on air by then. It was only in the following few days that the swelling got worse and by time I showed it to the German team doctor it had turned blue."
Didi played for Germany from 1997 to 2006. He joined Man City revolution in 2006 and stayed for three years. In 2010 he become player coach at MK Dons and joined Leicester City as first-team coach under Sven-Göran Eriksson in 2011.
There was also talk that Didi would join Dalglish’s backroom staff. A model of Teutonic efficiency, Didi will learn well from Sven and his next step as always will be a measured one. It seems he is assured a long managerial career. After all Didi has a dream – to manage Liverpool one day.
Posted by Number 7 at 13:17