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12 Apr 2017

'World-Class' Series [No2]: Sami Hyypia (Willem 2, Liverpool, and Finland). Was he 'world-class'?

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Liverpool have been blessed with a number of superb centre-backs over the years, including Sami Hyypia, who is arguably one of the greatest central defenders of the Premier League era. Was he 'world-class', though?

World Class: My Definition

Before a player can be deemed 'world-class', he/she must have a Specific, Measurable Impact (SMI) at all three levels of football, and push his/her team to relative success at all three levels.

The Three Levels

* Domestic: National leagues.

* European: Champions League, Europa League, or equivalent.

* World: International - qualifying and/or tournaments.

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

* What is the the team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL) in a given competition? In other words, based on historical performance, what is the absolute best the team can realistically expect to achieve?

* Causation: The player's causal contribution to his team's OAL. To what extend did the player in question help the team to meet its OAL? But for the player under consideration, would the team still have achieved its OAL?

* A variety of objective, position-specific criteria should be used when assessing the SMI of players. For example, for attacking players: Goals; assists; conversion rate; key passes; shot-assists; passing accuracy etc. For defenders: goals conceded; blocks; aerial duels won; tackle success rate etc.

* Players in inferior teams are still capable of being 'world class' as long as their SMI is such that they excel, and push their team to achieve its OAL (though in all cases, SMI at all three levels is required).

SAMI HYYPIA: WORLD CLASS?

* SMI at Domestic Level | Willem 2: Helped the club to a second placed Eredivisie finish in 1999, the highest in its entire history (with one of the best defensive records in the division). Liverpool: Mainstay of a Liverpool team that won 4 domestic trophies (2 FA Cups and 2 League Cups), and finished 2nd in the league twice (2002 and 2009), at a time when Liverpool's OAL was finishing 3rd-5th in the league.

- During Hyypia's 10-year stay, Liverpool conceded an average of just 32 league goals per season. Since his departure, that's risen to 45. Helped LFC achieve the best defensive record (league) in 1999, and 2002. Second best in 2006 and 2007. Third best in 2001, 2008,  and 2009.

- In the 3 years prior to Hyppia's arrival, Liverpool conceded 128 league goals. In the 3 years post Hyppia's arrival, that went down to 99. To see the immediate difference: 1998-99: Liverpool conceded 49 league goals. 1999-00 (Hyypia's first year): Liverpool conceded 30 league goals.

- From 1999-2009, only Chelsea (296), and Man Utd (323) conceded fewer league goals than Liverpool (325). Since Sami left, Arsenal, Spurs, Man Utd, Man City, and Chelsea all have better defensive records. PFA Team of the Year: 2000 and 2002. Finnish Player of the year: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009.

- 2000-2001: Liverpool played 63 games that year, and Hyppia started every single one, and didn't pick up a single yellow or red card.

- Oct 2005-Dec 2005: Everpresent as Liverpool achieved a record-breaking 11 clean sheets in a row, something that has nver been matched since.

- With Hyppia in the team, Liverpool broke or matched its best ever Premier League clean sheets record on 5 separate occasions (2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009). The club also achieved its lowest number of Prem defeats on 4 separate occasions (2002, 2006, 2008, and 2009).

* SMI at European level | Liverpool: 2001: Helped Liverpool win the UEFA Cup (9 goals conceded in 13 games/9 clean sheets). 2005: Helped LFC win the Champions League (11 goals conceded in 15 games/7 clean sheets). 2007: Got to CL final (7 clean sheets).

- Also helped LFC get to two other CL QFs and another CL SF. Helped Liverpool concede less than 30 goals in the league qualify for Europe in every season at the club. 2x Super Cup wins. 2001: UEFA Team of the Year.

- Played 57 consecutive European games from November 2001 to February 2006.

* SMI at International level | Second most capped Finnish player of all time (after ex-Red Jari Litmanen). Captained Finland for 2-years (2008-10). Participated in 9 qualifying campaigns (5 Euro; 4 World Cup). Scored 4 goals in Euro qualifying campaigns. 2002: Helped Finland achieve its best ever World Cup qualifying defensive record (7 goals conceded in 8 games). 2008: Helped Finland achieved its best ever Euros qualifying defensive record (7 goals conceded in 14 games)

* Finland OAL: Finland have never qualified for a World Cup or a European Championship, so the team's OAL = a good qualification campaign and/or getting to the brink of qualification. During Hyypia's tenure as an international player, Finland came closer to qualification than at any point in the team's entire history, and a big part of that was the defensive record, which (as noted above) reached its apex with Hyppia in the team.

* Conclusion: Hyppia excelled at all three levels of football, and helped Willem 2, Liverpool, and Finland achieve relative success.

* Verdict: Definitely World-Class.

Oh Sami, how Liverpool miss you...


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