Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Henrik Larsson retires

Henrik Larsson, The Scottish Football BlogAs an indication of what was to come Henrik Larsson’s first contribution in a Celtic shirt was misleading. It was his misplaced that Chic Charnley latched on to score the winning goal for Hibs in an early season game at Easter Road.

That Hibs team would end up relegated while Celtic and Larsson would collect four league titles, four domestic cups and a UEFA Cup final appearance.

The 174 goals in just over 220 appearances seem frighteningly impressive but every one was met with barbs that he wouldn’t be half the player he appeared to be in a proper league. Larsson took this in his stride and, on leaving Celtic, set out to prove them wrong.

Two titles and a European Cup – featuring a game change appearance as substitute in the final – followed with Barcelona before another title was secured with Manchester United.

In four successive years he won a league title in Scotland, two in Spain and one in England. That is an enviable record that speaks of a world class player. Domestic honours also came with Feyenoord and Helsingborg along with a never ending stream of individual awards.

For Sweden he scored 37 goals in 106 games and came out of retirement to score the goal of the tournament at Euro 2004.

Hardened Celtic watchers will have their own favourite moments and matches. For me, watching in an Irish bar in Cyprus, his monumental display in the UEFA Cup Final when he twice equalised against Porto was a standout that deserved more than a runners-up medal.

We should also remember as Celtic and Rangers face up to some harsh financial reality that this was a player who cost only £650,000. And that bought the best player I've had the privilege to see in the SPL.