Finnish football legend and current assistant manager of the national team Sami Hyypiä has been given control at Bayer Leverkusen of the German Bundesliga for the rest of the season, in arguably the highest-profile appointment for a Finnish manager in history. Despite not yet having all the necessary coaching qualifications, Hyypiä will effectively manage the team until the end of this season, working alongside the club’s under-19 coach Sascha Lewandowski, who is fully licensed.
Five consecutive defeats spelled the end for Bayer Leverkusen’s previous manager, Robin Dutt. That run included a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions League, but it was their loss at home in the league to Freiburg that proved to be the final straw. Freiburg are currently battling relegation in the Bundesliga, while Leverkusen harbour ambitions of playing European football again next season and are now seventh.
Hyypiä joined Leverkusen as a player in 2009 from Liverpool, where he had played for ten years, winning the Champions League and becoming a popular player with the fans in the process. He excelled in his first season at Leverkusen too, but decided to retire from the game one year later at the age of 37, becoming a coach at the German club as well as the Finnish national team.
His appointment can only be a good thing for Finland. Whatever experience he picks up from Leverkusen can be transferred to his coaching of the national team (and vice versa). It should be stressed that he has only been appointed as a caretaker-manager, but if he does well, as I fully expect him to, there’s no reason why he couldn’t manage his country as well one day.