"My mind was made up straight away" – Didi Hamann on why he rejected Real Madrid for Newcastle in 1998
Didi Hamann may most-commonly be associated with Liverpool, but many forget it was actually Newcastle United the German first opted to join in the Premier League.
After rising through the ranks at Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, Hamann had his pick of clubs in the summer of 1998. Real Madrid were even interested in securing his services after solid 1998 World Cup displays. Yet Hamann knew he wanted to play for Newcastle United as soon as the Magpies came calling, and it was all down to the gaffer, Kenny Dalglish.
"We had many excellent players at Bayern, but we never gelled as a team," the 49 year old tells FourFourTwo now. "I always felt that , in order to fulfil my potential, I needed to leave.
"After the 1998 World Cup in France, Real Madrid were interested, but the keenest approach was Newcastle with Kenny Dalglish in charge. My mind was made up straight away, and I enjoyed it.
"Sometimes it wasn’t as professional as Bayern, like their training ground and things, but I found a team with plenty of spirit. It was a disappointing year, however. We reached the FA Cup final, but didn ’t do as well as expected in the Premier League [finishing 13th] ."
Hamann made just 23 league appearances for the Toon before signing for Liverpool, where he went on to make 280 first-team appearances, scoring 11 goals. Hamann was crucial in securing two FA Cups, two League Cups and the 2005 Champions League during his time at Anfield. The German became a legend on Merseyside, though he has Newcastle and Dalglish for making a move to England possible in the first place.