Friday’s Forgotten Footballer – Henrik Larsson

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

Henrik Larsson

Full Name: Henrik Edward “Henke” Larsson
Born: September 20 1971
Position: Striker
Nationality: Swedish (106 caps)
Clubs: Hogaberg, Helsinborg, Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona, Manchester United
Remembered for: Goalscoring

Henrik Larsson started his career with Hogaberg. At the age of 17 he made his professional debut. He was soon picked up by Helsinborg. His love affair began with his local side. He scored 50 goals in 56 appearances which earned him rave reviews in Europe.

Inevitably it wasn’t long before Larsson switched to a bigger league. Feyenoord stepped in and picked up the hotshot for the nominal fee of £295,000. His time in Holland went moderately well, but he was unable to reproduce the goalscoring feats he had set in his homeland.

In 1997, due to a contract dispute with the Dutch club Larsson left the Eredivisie for the Scottish Premier League. It proved to be an inspirational piece of business by the Celtic manager, Wim Jansen, as Larsson would subsequently crowned as the “greatest ever Celtic player” by the Hoop’s fan.

In his maiden season in the SPL, Larsson scored 16 goals in 44 appearances but it was the following season that he really found his feet in Glasgow. He hit the net on 29 occasions in just 35 outings.

Unfortunately in 1999 the Swede suffered a shocking leg break and missed the majority of the campaign. John Barnes may rue this misfortune as he lost his job as manager and endured a torrid campaign without the clinical Larsson.

In 2004, after seven sensational years at Park Head, Larsson decided for a fresh change of scenery. He left Celtic boasting a phenomenal record. He currently stands as the clubs highest goal scorer with 227 goals in all competitions. He also helped guide Celtic to four league titles, three league cups and a Scottish cup.

He swapped Park Head for the Nou Camp. His two year spell with Barcelona proved a fruitful term as he enjoyed playing a role in the successful Riijkard era at the Catalan club. Largely used as an impact sub, he still made some crucial contributions as Barcelona won back to back La Liga titles and the Champions League in 2006.

He returned to Helsingborg during the summer that year. He helped steer the club to the Swedish cup in 2006. During the off season he secured a loan switch to Manchester United. While at Old Trafford he was used as an emergency striker. Nevertheless he still poached three goals for the Red Devils and picked up a Premier League medal.

On the international front, Larsson earned 106 caps for his country and in the process scored 37 goals. He participated in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup and Euro 2004 and found his way onto the score sheet in all three competitions. He initially retired from international football in 2006 but was tempted out of retirement for Euro 2008. He also captained the side when Freddie Ljungberg retired in 2008. He did finally call time on his international career this month.

It coincided with his decision to retire from club football with the much loved Swede playing his final game on Wednesday. The 38-year-old took to the pitch for the final time in Helsingborg’s 2-0 defeat to Djurgarden and bringing the curtain down on a career spanning two decades.

An emotional Larsson said: “It’s huge to be able to end it on our home ground and it has to end sometime. It is rubbish to end things this way (with a defeat) but you can’t have everything in life.”

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