Sami Hyypia has revealed a desire for regular first-team football was behind his decision to leave Liverpool after 10 years – but he has not ruled out a return to Anfield in a coaching capacity.
The veteran defender will join German club Bayer Leverkusen on a two-year deal when his current contract expires in the summer. The Finland centre-half has revealed he did not want his manager Rafael Benitez to make promises he could not be sure of keeping over the amount of games he would be able to play next season.
The 35-year-old faces stiff competition from Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel and has not played for Liverpool since the 4-1 win at Manchester United in March.
Hyypia said: "The main reason is I still think I'm young enough to play football and I know chances to play here would be limited. I spoke to the manager and I didn't want him to make promises about how many games I would play but this season has been mentally very difficult. I haven't played a lot and playing is what I enjoy most.
"I understand it isn't possible to play enough games here for me to be happy, so I had to look elsewhere. I got the option to go abroad to Bayer Leverkusen. The whole package was good, they have big plans for me and hopefully I can go there and help them to be successful."
Benitez offered Hyypia another year's contract and the chance to join the coaching staff, but the defender wants to concentrate on playing as long as he can.
He said: "Leaving is very difficult because from day one I have felt at home here. I have had good relationships with the club, with the staff and all the players who have been here over the last 10 years. It's difficult to leave but my reasons are all professional. I still want to play football.
"Ten years is a long time to spend at one club. My family are settled here and I know it will be stressful moving with them into a new house in a new country. But the professional side drove this decision. It's a new challenge and I will give it everything to be successful in Germany."
Benitez has described Hyypia as "the perfect professional", and Hyypia added: "He [Benitez] wished me good luck. We had a number of discussions and the possibility of a coaching role was mentioned but I don't feel ready for that yet. I feel I still have a few more years in my legs to play football.
"We have had a lot of ups and downs during my time here but I have so many great memories and Liverpool will be my English club forever.
"Obviously, I'll miss the fans a lot and I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to them all. They still sing my name when I'm warming up or playing and that's always good to hear. It's sad to be leaving but I'll be back one day to watch some games and maybe see them all again.
"Coaching is something which has always been in my mind but I have to take my badges first. At the end of my playing career I will look to take the badges and then see. I would like to come back here one day as a coach."Reuse content