Dietmar Hamann At 50: The Making Of A Liverpool Legend

'Didi' made a vital contribution in the 2005 Champions League final
13:00, 27 Aug 2023

Steven Gerrard was a hero for scoring the goal that got them back into the contest. Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso also netted within six manic minutes. Jerzy Dudek’s ‘Spaghetti Legs’ helped to see them through the penalty shoot-out mere minutes after the Pole had made a miraculous double-save from Andriy Shevchenko to keep the game level.

There are a number of players Liverpool fans could identify as providing pivotal moments in the club’s 2005 Champions League final success, but perhaps Dietmar Hamann is the one who deserves most acclaim.

Hamann turns 50 on Sunday, and his contribution off the bench on May 29, 2005 in Istanbul is still identified by many Reds followers as the key component in Liverpool claiming their fifth European title.


The German midfielder thought he would be starting. Everybody did. Eight of his nine appearances in the Champions League that season had come as part of the first XI.

But manager Rafa Benitez wanted to get Harry Kewell in the starting lineup, knowing that the Australian could cause AC Milan trouble if he was on his game. That meant Gerrard starting as a midfielder rather than just behind Milan Baros, and Hamann was the fall guy. He was informed only 90 minutes before kick-off that he would be a substitute.

“It was a bit of a blow because I expected to start,” Hamann later told Goal. “I was pretty sure I was going to play that game, but as disappointed and upset as I was within a couple of minutes you need to get on with, support your team-mates and be in the right frame of mind.”

Around an hour later, Dudek was keeping out Shevchenko, first in normal play and then on the vital penalty in the shoot-out, and in turn Hamann had become a Liverpool FC legend.

That kind of selfless attitude was praised by his colleagues, not least defender Jamie Carragher.

“I’m not sure my reaction would have been as calm as his,” Carragher told The Athletic. “He was able to get himself in the right frame of mind to influence the game later on, but I doubt whether I could have done the same.

“If you’re expecting to play in any final and you get told you’re on the bench, it would be unusual not to be disappointed. If it happened in the Champions League final, you’d think your world had ended. You’ve got to give Didi massive credit for what he did.”

What he did was answer the call at half-time with Liverpool 3-0 down. Over the previous 45 minutes he had joined everybody else in just watching on in awe at Milan’s brilliance.

“They were so superior at times that I thought ‘Thank God I’m not playing!’ We had to play for pride in the second half more than anything.”

It turned out they were to win more than their pride back. Hamann’s introduction for the injured Steve Finnan brought a greater solidity, a new tempo and an improved sense of purpose. Gerrard’s goal gave them belief. Smicer’s sent shivers through everybody, and Alonso’s finish on a rebound after his penalty was saved by Nelson Dida had the whole world dumbfounded.

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