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Over the past twenty years, we’ve grown used to hearing foreign footballers being interviewed after a match. Away from the action, many, such as Vincent Kompany, are extraordinarily erudite and well spoken, in complete contrast to their on-pitch image. Others struggle (understandably) with the English language, while a smaller group, who invariably stay longer than they probably intended, eventually adapt a regional twang.
It is this latter collection of players who have become totally immersed in English life, more native than the natives. Unusually, there have been two such stars in Liverpool’s recent past: Jan Molby who, when he speaks, sounds like a bona fide Koppite, and Dietmar Hamann, who prides himself on being the world’s “only German Scouser”.
Starting with Newcastle (where he was, ironically, signed by Kenny Dalglish), then heading to Anfield, followed by a spell at Manchester City before moving into management at Milton Keynes and Stockport, Hamann became one of our most popular non-British players. And while this autobiography focuses primarily upon his time at Anfield, he does not forget to acknowledge those who gave his career an essential fillip, not least Giovanni Trappatoni, one of his early mentors at Bayern Munich.
But this is not the chronological meanderings of an ex-player who fancies making a few quid from a book. For a start, Hamann does not take himself too seriously, an attitude borne of a man who appreciates how he made his living (and possibly of his status as a self-confessed Anglophile), nor does he feel that just because he was a German international, footballing success was his by right.
There is one revealing anecdote which highlight’s Hamann’s generosity when offers his 2003 League Cup winners' medal to one of Liverpool’s younger players who had appeared in earlier rounds but missed out on the final. He explains: "Valuing everyone who had made an effort for us was more important to me than personal gratification."
Annoyingly, the book does contain some factual errors which, although minor, display a sloppiness of which Hamann was never guilty. Liverpool played Roma, not Juventus, in the 1984 European Cup Final, for example. But these inaccuracies do not detract from a read which reaches its crescendo in Istanbul at the 2005 Champions League Final when ‘the Didi Man’ came off the bench at half time to help Liverpool complete perhaps European football’s greatest-ever comeback.
Before Didi Hamann, only his fellow German Bert Truman had been as universally accepted amongst football fans. Both were initially apprehensive about playing football in England, although neither man ever left. Hamann has the accent and sense of humour to suggest he plans to stay here for a long time yet.