Didi Hamann On Footballers Playing Games, Liverpool's Start To The Season, And More
Not everyone can say they're a Champions League, Bundesliga, and FA Cup champion, but one that can is Dietmar 'Didi' Hamann. The former German defensive midfielder has received 59 caps for his national team, alongside featuring over 280 times in the Premier League.
We spoke with the former player/manager on footballers gaming, Liverpool's start to the premier league, potential signings, and more.
We often hear about footballers playing a lot of games in their spare time. Back in the day, when you were on the road, did you manage to play much with your teammates? Which teammates do you recall as being the best at gaming? Which games would you play most often, and which did you personally specialise in?
In my time there wasn't much of a gaming culture. That has come in the last 10-15 years. It wasn't as big at the time, nothing like it is now. These days you even have professional footballers investing in esports. We mainly played cards but we had a few players like Harry Kewell who when the gaming industry first started, he played the odd game. I can't remember what they played, but it was a few games on the coach and that was it. It's changed a lot in the last 15 or so years.
More and more people are growing up and wanting to be gamers/YouTubers as opposed to professional athletes. Do you think more kids would still rather be a footballer one day instead of a gamer?
Well I'm probably the wrong person to ask for that. People have to be careful though. If they want to dedicate themselves to a career in gaming then they can't replace physical exercise. I've not got a problem with the kids who want to game as much as their parents let them, but at the same time, they need to exercise because that can't be replaced. I think you've got to find the right balance between the two of them.
Can you see the appeal for going to watch professional esports live in person or even online?
Like I said it's a fast-growing business, so I am intrigued as to how they market it and how it's run. I can see myself at one of these events, I'm not sure which one, but if I'm around, of course, I would come and watch one.
Liverpool have made a slow start to the Premier League season dropping 7 points already in the opening 4 games. What problems would you pinpoint as the reasons behind their recent form?
Well, obviously, I think the departure of Mané has played a part because he was a player that you could always rely on. He scored a bunch of goals, assisted a bunch of goals and he was one of the few players that Liverpool had that are not replaceable. He made it clear that he wanted to leave, the club said ok if we get a transfer fee which we agree on and now the dynamic of the team has changed.
Obviously, Núñez got sent off so he has not been involved in the last few games and I think that's part of the reason but when you lose such a big player like Mané, sometimes it can take a few weeks. They have to be careful not to fall too far behind because you know how hard it is to make the points on Manchester City but I think the departure of Mane is probably the biggest factor.
Do you believe these poor results are a blip? Or do you believe this current Liverpool outfit are at the end of their cycle?
Last year, after the Champions League final, I said next season for them is going to be very tough, because they had the chance to win four trophies and they ended up with just two, and the two biggest trophies eluded them and they played the best season of their life. The players coming back in the next season are thinking 'we played the best season of our life and we only won the two cups'.
I think psychologically it will be a very challenging season for Liverpool because if they don't believe they can do it, they won't do it. They have amassed 90+ points three or four times and only won one league title. That is something that can drain you. I wouldn't say they are in a decline or at the end of their cycle but I think it won't get any easier for Liverpool because they have played at their limit in the last three or four years.
They have only managed one Champions League title and one Premier League title, when in any other era they probably would have won them so much more. I think psychologically it will be very hard for them this season, and the start shows that.
Are you of the belief that Liverpool need to make a move for a player in the last few days in the transfer market? If so, then in what areas do they need strengthening?
Regardless of the injuries, I think if you look at Liverpool they have a fantastic goalkeeper, defence and up top they're great as well. I think they need someone in midfield because they don't get any goals from midfield. Last year I think they got 12 or 13 goals from midfield and I think Fabinho got about seven of them. That means the rest of the midfield scored about five goals between them. They haven't got goals from midfield and I think that's their achilles heel.
I watched Newcastle United versus Manchester City last week and looking at that I think they need a midfielder with presence. You look at Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Thiago, they're all similar, tidy players, I think they could do with someone like Joelinton from Newcastle. I think he's someone who's technically gifted, who's a big lad, and has a great strike on him. I think that's the type of player they miss. Whether you can get him now with a few days of the transfer window left to go, I'm not too sure. If there's one area where they could do with a player, it's in midfield.
The Merseyside derby takes place Saturday lunchtime. Both sides aren't in the best of form. So let's have your prediction for the match? Do you believe Everton could go down this season? Could Liverpool miss out on a top four position this season?
I'd probably predict a 1-0 victory for Liverpool. Everton played really well against Liverpool at Anfield last season where they could have taken something from the game. Regarding whether Everton could get relegated, it's not looking good. Richarlison was their talisman last season and scored important goals for them. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is injured again so it's going to be a tough season for them. They almost went down last season and it was a miracle that they were able to beat teams like Chelsea and stay in the league.
I do believe that Liverpool will beat them on Saturday and unfortunately, Everton are a club in decline and it's really sad to see. I was in Liverpool for a number of years and Everton is a fantastic club. It's really hard to watch what's been happening over the past five to ten years.
After Darwin Núñez's headbutt against Crystal Palace, he's highlighted that he's prone to being wound up. Do you believe throwing him straight back into the team at Goodison Park is a good idea?
Well he signed a five year contract so he will have to play at some point. I'm sure the manager would have had a word with him. It doesn't matter where you play, whether it's England or Portugal, you've got to control your emotions. It was a daft thing to do and getting himself a suspension when he's just come to the club has delayed his implementation into the team.
Would it be a bad idea to put him back in the team at Goodison Park? If you ask me now, I wouldn't be surprised if he started on the bench. One thing that's for sure is that if he does come on at some stage then the Everton players will try to wind him up. It may not be a bad idea to leave him on the bench for this game.
Harvey Elliott and Fábio Carvalho are making a big impression for Liverpool this season. In your opinion, which young player in Liverpool's squad has you most excited for the future?
There's been a lot of talk about Harvey Elliott who scored a very good goal against Bournemouth, but from what I've seen already of Fábio Carvalho, I believe he can be a very important player. The way he played reminds me of Philippe Coutinho and he's an exciting player. Both he and Harvey Elliott are really exciting players but you have to give them time. You shouldn't expect too much of them too early as it can hinder their progress. To have two players that are making an impact at a club used to success, then that's really exciting to see.
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard is under pressure after losing three of his first four Premier League games this season. Are you worried for him? Do you believe he has the capabilities to turn it around? Is he failing his audition to become the next Liverpool manager?
I don't think he will be thinking of Liverpool now as he has his hands full with Aston Villa. He had some tricky periods when he first went to Rangers but he ended up doing a brilliant job. Aston Villa have bought a lot of players and when you spend a lot of money on transfers then expectations rise. They have to go to Arsenal on Wednesday which will be a difficult fixture at the Emirates but Steven's a fighter. Whatever's thrown at him he will find an answer for it. I wish him all the best but this pressure is something that comes with being a manager in the Premier League.
Raheem Sterling described his anger regarding his exit from Manchester City claiming that everybody 'wants to feel wanted'. What did you make of his comments? Do you believe he was right to feel that he should have started games more often?
I personally believe he should have been one of the first names on the team sheet. He had a very successful time at Manchester City and sometimes you just need to bite your tongue and get on with it. There were two or three times when I heard that Manchester City wanted to get rid of Raheem and then six months later he will be back in the team. He probably should have said those words for his friends rather than the press but I think his comments show just how strongly he thought about the matter.
Newcastle completed the signing of Real Sociedad and Sweden striker Alexander Isak for a club record £60 million. How exciting a move is this for your former club? Are they building a team that can potentially challenge for European places this season? If they're going to nudge a team out of a European place, who would that be?
I don't think they'll be far off. They were brilliant against Manchester City and it's one of the best games I've seen in recent years. They went head to head with the best team in England. They have resilience and character in their squad. Regarding Isak, he was in Germany at the age of 17 at Borussia Dortmund and that move was a little too early for him, but Newcastle have got an outstanding centre-forward. I believe he's the next piece of the jigsaw they need to compete.
I don't believe they can challenge the top four or five at the moment but I like a lot of what they do. They've been very methodical with who they've signed so far and next season I believe they will be a contender for the European places, maybe even the Champions League places.
Frankfurt's Kevin Trapp was linked with a move to Manchester United last week. Newcastle's Martin Dúbravka is now the new target. Is Dúbravka good enough to compete with David De Gea? Would Kevin Trapp have been Manchester United's number one if he had signed? Are United going to regret missing out on Trapp?
De Gea was at fault for a few of the goals against Brentford but I think he's a brilliant goalkeeper. I don't think Martin Dúbravka will be brought in to compete with De Gea so that makes me think that Kevin Trapp would have only come in as a number two. Kevin Trapp and Yann Sommer, who was also linked, are too good a keeper to sit on the bench, even if it is at Manchester United.
I think De Gea is number one and will be number one, I just believe they want a backup in case something happens. The goalkeeper is one of the most crucial members of a team, so I think they'll do well to bring in a keeper like Dúbravka.
Which two of the 'Big Six' are finishing outside the Champions League places this season in your opinion?
Manchester United and Chelsea. I believe both North London clubs will finish in the top four.
In your opinion, which Premier League club has had the best transfer window and why?
I think Tottenham's window has been good. Richarlison is a very good player and they've bought four or five good players to improve their squad. They needed a deep squad to make them contenders and I like the way their squad is set up. I'd say it's a close call between Tottenham and Arsenal because the latter has two great players in Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus. They both have the mentality of title winners and they know what it takes.
Chelsea are continuing to pursue a move for Barcelona's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His professionalism came into question during his time at Arsenal, but he did score 68 goals in 128 Premier League games. First and foremost, is this a good move? Do you believe they should have given Timo Werner or Romelu Lukaku more of a chance?
Both Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner had their chances at Chelsea. Lukaku wanted to go back to Italy and Werner unfortunately missed too many chances. It didn't prove that he could play in the Premier League. He wasn't consistent enough and neither of them took their chances. Regarding Aubameyang, he had his antics at Borussia Dortmund before he went to Arsenal but if you get someone like him in, then you know what you're getting. If you find the key to the person, not the player, then I believe he will score you goals. I can't think of too many better options for Chelsea than him.
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has lost his place in the club's starting XI. Do you think this is the right decision? And ultimately, do you believe he should be stripped of the captaincy?
It is the right decision to drop him because the defensive performances against Southampton and Liverpool justified it. If he doesn't play in the next few weeks then I believe there will come a time where they'll have to look for another captain. The captain is the voice of the manager on the pitch.
And if Maguire was to be stripped of the captaincy, do you believe his days at Manchester United will be numbered?
It all depends on the character of the player but I think that Harry Maguire has already shown that he's a strong person and a team player. I think if he's stripped of the captaincy then he'd still fight for his place and wouldn't be desperate to leave the club. However, if he's left out of the side for a long period of time then a transfer may be best for the club and for the player. Chelsea have been interested in him supposedly so that just shows how high he is rated and the fact that Manchester United didn't entertain the move shows that they still have belief in the player, even if he may not be captain in a few weeks time.