SAMI HYYPIA was recognised as a cut above for his performances in a Liverpool shirt last season.
But judging by the new look he's adopting for the campaign, you could be forgiven for thinking his head needs examining!
There was always a sneaking feeling the impressive Finn enjoyed a few splashes of peroxide on his hair, but during the summer it appears he spilt a full bottle.
Hyypia is the new blond bombshell of the Liverpool back four.
Even Stephane Henchoz has joined in on the act as the hairstyle known as the "Gazza" has infiltrated the Anfield ranks! It's all very appropriate since both arrived in an era when quality Liverpool centre-backs were becoming a dy(e)ing breed.
"I wanted the summer look, that's why I've had it this way," joked Liverpool's player of the year.
"I'm just waiting to see what the reception is. If I get too much stick it could be I'll have to have it all cut off."
It's a haircut that makes Hyypia an instantly recognisable figure in the Liverpool defence.
But these days, being identified isn't a problem. A far cry from the mocking remarks of "Sami Who-pia?" of 12 months ago.
Now Hyypia is one of Liverpool's most valuable assets and fame has arrived at home and in Europe.
"When I returned to Finland this summer it was much different to last year. I've become well known and more people have been asking for autographs or interviews.
"It's not been over the top with everyone ripping my clothes off or anything like that.
"Finnish people tend to be very shy anyway so I was still able to keep myself to myself. But the interest has grown in me and in Liverpool. It's funny because I met a man who told me he was the secretary of the Finnish Liverpool fan club. I said to him 'I didn't know we had one!'. Obviously we do now."
Hyypia remains modest about his success in the last 12 months. Always the first player to arrive for training every day, he has maintained a professionalism which makes his £2.5m fee a snip in an age where £10m won't even buy you Rio Ferdinand.
"The expectation of me will be much higher than it was a year ago," admits Hyypia.
"That adds to the pressure on me because people think you will always play well. There's also more competition for my place this season. That's good for the club because it keeps everyone awake. We have a stronger squad than last year. The five players we've bought are all high quality and I'm sure we can do better than last season. I can't say I know them all really well, but I do know of them. Markus Babbel is recognised as one of the best defenders in Europe."
So will Hyypia be offering advice to those foreign players who need to acclimatise to the English game?
"I don't know if you can compare my situation last year to Markus now. He has played for Bayern Munich for many years at the very highest level. He has experience which I didn't have 12 months ago. I'm not sure if I can give him advice but maybe I can learn from him."
At some stage tomorrow when Liverpool face their second warm-up game against Bundesliga side Freiburg, Hyypia will also resume the captaincy.
It's a duty he will share with Robbie Fowler as Gerard Houllier's plan to rotate his forward line will mean Hyypia takes the armband often.
One or two supporters believe it would be wiser to give Hyypia the job permanently.
Added Hyypia: "It's unfortunate for Jamie Redknapp that he needed another operation. I wouldn't want that for any player. If I get the chance to be the captain it's an honour at a club like this. Whether it's myself or Robbie I don't mind. I respect every player in the squad and respect the decision of the manager."
Hyypia is currently the cream of the crop of Finnish players who are making a name for themselves across Europe, but he believes there are more to come.
"The Under 18s beat France recently so there's a number of good young players to look out for," he says.
Rumours that they've all bleached their hair to honour their idol from Liverpool are unconfirmed.
© Liverpool Daily Post & Echo