FFT put some questions to former Liverpool team-mates Dietmar Hamann and Jerzy Dudek at a recent Masters tournament, with the 10-year anniversary of Istanbul on the agenda…
What did you think of Liverpool’s performance last season, obviously taking into account Luis Suarez’s departure and the impact, or lack thereof, of the new signings?
Dietmar Hamann (DH): It was below par. No Suarez and also Daniel Sturridge’s injuries were a big problem. Any team will struggle when you take away all the goals from the previous season. It’s hard playing with no centre-forward.
Jerzy Dudek (JD): Finishing sixth last season was very disappointing, especially after a very good season the year before when Liverpool almost won the league. Suarez’s departure did major damage to the team. It was a crucial decision to sell Suarez just when they finally got back into the Champions League.
What did you think about the decision to retain Brendan Rodgers for this season?
DH: It was a good call. He nearly won the league two years ago, he has some new staff and he deserved another crack.
JD: There aren’t too many good managers on the market. Before the season Rafael Benitez and Jurgen Klopp could have been potential replacements, but Rafa signed with Real Madrid and Klopp was on holiday. I can understand why the owners wanted to give him one more chance, but he is now under big pressure and he need results straight away.
The Reds re-tooled again in the off-season, adding Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne, among others. What are your thoughts on the recruitment for 2015/16?
DH: It was a positive recruitment drive. Liverpool signed some good players.
JD: They are good players and have good character, but every new player needs time to adapt.
Do any of those signings in particular excite you?
DH: Clyne, as I feel he’s the best right-back in the Premier League. Plus Benteke, who is exactly what the team needed.
JD: For me it's Benteke and Firmino. Benteke is very strong up front, while Firmino is very talented and possesses loads of skill.
Didi, as a former midfielder yourself, could you give us your assessment on Liverpool’s options in that part of the ground?
DH: Jordan Henderson is injured right now, but he’s a big player and quickly becoming a world-class central midfielder. Emre Can has big, big potential. And James Milner was a superb signing, an unsung hero. He always got in Manchester City’s team no matter who they signed.
What were your realistic expectations for Liverpool entering the new season?
DH: As always, it’s the top four. We need Champions League football back at Anfield!
JD: The ambitions are always the same, to get back into the top four. This is a realistic goal this season.
Jerzy, FFT was at a League Cup game at Anfield against Ipswich Town in late 2002. It came shortly after the defeat against Manchester United. You won the game in a penalty shootout and received a terrific reaction from the fans. Do you remember that game?
JD: I do remember this game! I had a difficult time after the loss against Manchester United and I wanted a break after this game. But Gerard Houllier asked me to play and to fight on after my error.
It ended up being a fantastic game. We won after penalties and I got a great reception from Liverpool supporters, who were singing my name from beginning to end. I’ll never forget that moment. It was a true “You’ll Never Walk Alone” game.
It is so competitive at the top of the Premier League and once again Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United look strong. Do you think Liverpool can make the top four?
DH: Yes I believe we can. City are booked for the top four and Arsenal have a very strong team. So we need either Chelsea or Manchester United to miss out.
JD: It will be very difficult, there is so much competition. They need to make sure they pick up wins against the lower-ranked teams and play with the same attitude they have when they play the big teams. I hope they all believe in Brendan because another season without Champions League will be disappointing.
Do you miss playing at Anfield?
DH: Anfield is an amazing stadium and I loved playing there. I was there for seven big years. I go back whenever possible, but I have a busy schedule which limits those opportunities.
JD: I think about it every day! It’s a great stadium with a great atmosphere. It also comes with big responsibility, but I loved it. I got to two games last year, the game against Real Madrid and a league game.
Didi, FFT spent some time recently with German great Lothar Matthaus, your former team-mate. He mentioned you were good friends and pointed out your Scouse accent! What are your memories of him as a player and how would he have gone playing in England?
DH: He was simply the best player of his time and was an honour to play with. He could easily have played in the Premier League and could have played for any team. He had everything you need as a footballer and was probably the player at a time in his career.
Jerzy, it has now ticked past 10 years since the 2005 Champions League Final. Firstly, can you believe it was 10 years ago already? And do you get asked about it quite often?
JD: Yes it is 10 years ago now, but it feels like it was just last year! It’s a match that is obviously well remembered and not only by the Liverpool family. Everywhere I go, people always remember that night and have their own story to tell about it.
You are both playing in the Castlewood Battle Of The Reds Masters event, alongside Luis Garcia and Vladimir Smicer. Do you stay in touch with many of your ex-teammates and especially the guys from the 2005 Champions League victory?
DH: I’m big pals with Jamie Carragher and Sami Hyypia. Everyone is busy, but it’s always good to catch up with the boys. We recently had a 10-year reunion for the Champions League final, which was great fun.
JD: Yes I still have good contacts with almost all of my old team-mates. Every time I have a chance to play and see them it is always a great pleasure!
Have you spent much time in Asia? What are your thoughts on the region and are you aware of how much they love their football here?
DH: Yes I’ve been to Asia a few times and it’s a great place. It is full of great fans who have lots of enthusiasm for football.
JD: Asia is a fantastic place with fantastic people. I had great joy playing in Singapore, the people know lots about football and they are always very nice to us.
What are you expecting in the match against the former Manchester United players? I’m sure it will be good fun, but I imagine it will also be quite competitive?
DH: It will be a competitive game for sure, as always in the United v Liverpool derbies. All the boys will want to win. I’m really looking forward to catching up with some of the lads.
JD: This is a fantastic opportunity for us to meet on the field. Everyone will want to win, just like old times. It’s always quite competitive.
The Castlewood Group Battle of the Reds Tour is not officially endorsed by Manchester United Football Club or Liverpool Football Club.