Nuri Sahin has revealed how Xabi Alonso urged him to sign for Liverpool after learning of the Reds' interest in the Turkey international, who today completed a season-long loan move to Anfield.
Sahin and Alonso were close friends at Real Madrid - and our former midfielder left Brendan Rodgers' latest signing in no doubt where his future should lie.
In his first interview since becoming a Reds player, the midfielder sat down with Liverpoolfc.com at Melwood to discuss Alonso's love for LFC, the influence of Rodgers on his decision to join the club, and his hopes and aims for the next year.
Firstly, Nuri, welcome to Liverpool. How does it feel to sign for this football club?
It feels great. I am happy to be here and I am looking forward to playing for Liverpool.
You've become the first Turkish player to sign for Liverpool. How proud does that make you feel?
Of course it makes me proud to play for such a big club like Liverpool Football Club as the first Turkish player. Now it is up to me to make the people in Turkey proud.
Have you had an opportunity to speak with Brendan Rodgers yet?
Yeah, we've had a lot of conversations. We spoke and he told me about his ideas for how he wants to play football and where he sees me on the field in the team. I was impressed at how he loves football.
Is the style of play Brendan is looking to implement something that will suit you?
To be honest, before I had spoken to him I hadn't thought about playing for Liverpool because there had been no contact. After the first conversation we had, I was left impressed. He told me about how he wants to play football and what the goals are he wants to reach with Liverpool. From that point, I started to think that maybe I could make the step (to Liverpool). I went online and checked all the games of Swansea and Liverpool. Now I am here.
Jose Mourinho worked with Brendan at Chelsea. What did he tell you about Liverpool and playing in England?
We spoke and he told me that English football, especially the Premier League, is the best to enjoy as a footballer. Every weekend you can enjoy football. He also told me about how he and Brendan Rodgers worked together at Chelsea and that he's a good coach and person. That's important for me. It's not only football, it was very important for me to have someone who I can speak with.
Did you speak with Xabi Alonso before you decided to come here?
Yes, of course. A lot of times. Xabi is a person who really cares about football. He's in love with football. I'm the same, and that's why we had a lot of conversations. When I arrived at Real Madrid, we spoke about German football and Italian football. He likes football! When he heard Liverpool were interested in me, he started telling me about Liverpool. He is still in love with Liverpool Football Club, I think! It's crazy how he was telling me about Liverpool. He was saying, 'Go there, you will love it. The fans will take care of you and love you' and things like that. He said Anfield is the best stadium in the world. Xabi won a lot of trophies here, and hopefully we can do that too.
Which players here are you most looking forward to playing alongside?
Steven Gerrard is a huge name, not only in Liverpool but in world football. I am looking forward to playing with him - I've played against him once. There are many other players that I could name - I could start from number one to 25. I know them all, not personally, but I know how they play football and what the style of Liverpool is. I am looking forward to meeting them all. If I have to choose one name, it would be Steven Gerrard - but it is not only Gerrard.
Are you excited about the prospect of playing at Anfield?
I am looking forward to watching the game tomorrow. I have heard so many good things about Anfield. I come from a very big club, Borussia Dortmund, and there we also had very, very big crowds. Madrid also has a huge stadium. I am looking forward to Anfield because everyone says it is the best stadium in the world.
You've signed a season-long loan deal - what are you hoping to achieve over the next year?
I had a difficult season last year because of a lot of injuries. I had three injuries last year. The team played very well, but I didn't play too many games, so that's why I spoke to Real Madrid and told them I wanted to go out for a year. I want to play football - and it was important for me to be at a club where the manager really wants me. I wanted to play for a club on the same level as Dortmund and Madrid - that's why I chose Liverpool. This year, it is very important for me to play. I have to play, improve my game and help the team. If I stay in good condition, I am sure I can help the team and Liverpool Football Club, and Brendan Rodgers and my new teammates can help me.
What did you learn from your year at Real Madrid?
A lot, a lot - not just about football. Of course I did [learn a lot] about football, but not only that. As a person, I've grown up. In the last year, I've had a child and I now have an 11-month-old son. It was a crazy year because on the one hand I got injured, but on the other hand I became a father, became a champion with Borussia Dortmund and signed for Real Madrid. It was a crazy year, but I learned a lot.
Do you feel you're now ready for the challenge of playing in the Barclays Premier League?
Yes. If not, I wouldn't be here.
How would you describe yourself as a player?
I'm not the type of guy who can describe himself. I can say, and I think people know, I am a central midfielder who loves to have the ball. I'm not the type of player who dribbles past three or four players and then shoots at goal. I'm more of a tactical and technical player. I like to organise, I love it when my team is tactically at a very high level, can play one or two-touch and play football. That's the way I love playing football. As for my qualities, I can't say anything - that is up to the people.
Finally, do you have a message for Liverpool fans?
I am looking forward to meeting them. I am happy to be here and I hope it will be a nice year with trophies. A club like Liverpool has to be playing in the Champions League, so we will go for the top four. We also have the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League and I hope at the end of the season we are holding something in our hands.