Swiss defender Philipp Degen is now Liverpool’s first official first-team signing of the summer, after he signed a four-year deal with the club.
He arrives on a Bosman deal, after his Borussia Dortmund contract expired at the end of June and is glad to be here: “It’s a great club with great fans and I am happy to be here. I know the club has a strong tradition and a rich history. I hope to play a big role in the future.”
Speaking to the official Liverpool FC website, he said he sees a comparison between the Premier League and the Bundesliga: “You probably know that I played in Germany with Borussia Dortmund – that was a strong league too. But now I’m looking forward to the challenge of England and the Premier League, which is probably the strongest league in the world right now.”
His name has appeared on an Anfield team-sheet already, in 2002 when Basel drew 1-1 at Anfield in the Champions League. He was an unused sub, but remembers the occasion well: “I have been to Anfield before, with Basel, although I did not play on that occasion. But it was a great experience and to see the fans singing the famous song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was something special.”
He describes himself as a “pacey player who likes to get forward. I have a good attacking mentality and like to get up and down the flank. I also have good technique.” He also has good words to say about manager Rafa Benítez, who he says was an important part of his decision to join: “He was very important. He is the manager here and one of the finest coaches in the world. He has a fantastic record with both LFC and Valencia. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
He’s got to convince Rafa that he’s good enough to push Steve Finnan and Alvaro Arbeloa out of the way for the right-back role, and is ready to try: “They are very good players and it will be difficult but I am ready for the challenge and look forward to breaking into the first team soon.”
He went on: “The move is a challenge for me because Liverpool are not just any club. They play every year for the title and the Champions League so it is clear to me that it’s not easy to get through to the team. All the positions at Liverpool are occupied by two or three players already. But my playing style suits the Premier League, where the football is played moving forward.”
As for the new season he feels the club can challenge for the title, but says consistency is important: “I am sure we can challenge. We have a very strong team with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres but there are some strong opponents in Man Utd and Chelsea, so we will have to be very consistent. It’s a long season and anything can happen but we will go into the first game of the campaign hoping to push them all the way.”
He’ll be doing his utmost, he says, to try and help Liverpool win games: “I will do all I can for the side and for the fans. I want the club to succeed and I will always do my best to ensure Liverpool are winning matches.”
Boss Rafa was glad to find Degen, saying that he was looking for full-backs with more to their game than the defensive side: He said: “I’m really pleased because we were working to try and find this kind of player in the full-back position with the ability to push forward, so I think he is a good signing. It was another good acquisition through the scouting department because it is another Bosman player.”
Rafa’s summary of Degan’s skills was again concentrated on his attacking qualities: “He’s very strong. He likes to go forward; he’s very offensive and will give us options on the right-hand side. People talk about wingers but he will give us width from the full-back area and that is important too. On the right side we wanted to be more offensive and also on the left, and that is the reason we brought in Degen.”
Finnan has been linked with a move away from Anfield, although he says he has no plans to leave, and now Arbeloa is rumoured to be attracting interest from Spain, but Rafa says he needs the competition for places: “It is important for me to have one, two or even three players who can play in one position or different positions and compete for their place.”
The Spaniard pointed out that Degan had been looked at previously and had impressed: “The season before last we were watching him and we knew he would be a good addition. But we made our move this year because it was a better situation in terms of the contracts, so it was straightforward.”
Degen’s twin brother David plays for FC Basel, as a right-sided midfielder, and they share a website, degendegen.com. The content is in their native Swiss-German tongue, but Philipp is able to speak a number of languages fluently.
Although he never got onto the pitch in the recent Euro 2008 tournament, having just recovered from injury, he played all four of the Swiss side’s games in the 2006 World Cup. They topped their group, above eventual finalists France, before going out at the last 16 stage, having not conceded a single goal. Ukraine sent them out on penalties after a scoreless draw.
Rafa hopes to be in a position to confirm the signing of left-back Andrea Dossena soon.