Leverkusen - Over the course of a long and distinguished playing career, Sami Hyypiä carved out a reputation for himself as a formidable centre back. Ahead of his first full season at the helm of Bayer Leverkusen, the former Liverpool FC - and Bayer 04 - fans' favourite is aiming to hone a similarly relentless instinct in his charges.
In tandem with former U-19s coach Sascha Lewandowski, Hyypiä led Leverkusen to a fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga and Europa League qualification last season. Speaking in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the Leverkusen boss stated that another season in Europe is the aim for the club.
"Our target is to play European football again next season. When we do that, then we will have matched our target. Of course the Champions League would be nice; last season when the players played in the Champions League they realised how big it is and how great it is to play in the Champions League."
Hyypiä won the Champions League, UEFA Cup and FA Cup in Liverpool colours, and has set about instilling his winning attitude into his players on the training pitch, and in the dressing room.
"As a player I wanted to win every game and I've taken that mentality into this situation. I think it is better to only concentrate on the next game and try to win that, and if we do that I am a happy man. It would be a mistake to think any further ahead than that. Of course the club wants success, and I want success as well," he says.
Bayer remain unbeaten under Hyypiä and Lewandowski, having won four and drawn the other two of the half-dozen games played under the duo at the tail end of last season. The 105-time Finland international believes it is a formula that can work for the long-haul at the BayArena.
"It's great having Sascha there," he acknowledges, "He has the experience of being a coach for years and he thinks about football in a similar way to me. Last season, when we were in charge for six games, it really showed me that it can work." Moreover, he adds, "If I had seen at the end of last season that it wasn't going to work long-term then I wouldn't have taken the job, and I think that Sascha thinks of it in the same way."
Each man brings his own particular qualities to the job and while Hyypiä fully appreciates he is still a novice in coaching terms, he is confident that together they make a good team.
"I think Sascha has the things that I don't - the experience in coaching, how to plan a season, or to plan a week or a training session. Maybe I have something that Sascha doesn't. He didn't have a long (playing) career, so I can step into the players' shoes a little easier than he can," he explains.
Home and abroad
Competing on three fronts will push the partnership to its limits over the course of the upcoming campaign. But having fought off the advances of major European clubs for star players Andre Schürrle and Lars Bender, Leverkusen are in fine fettle and raring to get started into 2012/13.
"If the club wants success then it can't sell all the best players every year," Hyypiä affirms. "So it is a sign that the club wants success, and it is great for us in the coaching staff to keep those players. Andre and Lars can be important for the team this season - you always need good players."