JOE's tribute to birthday boy Henrik Larsson
Not many players have achieved the cult status with Celtic fans that Henrik Larsson has. On his birthday, we look back at the career of one of the best players to have ever donned the famous hooped jersey.
In a club career which saw him make 772 appearances, he scored a pretty phenomenal 434 goals. He played for Helsingborg, Feyenoord, Celtic and Barcelona and had a brief, but memorable loan spell at Manchester United before finishing his career back at Helsingborg.
His goal-scoring record at Celtic was just unreal. It is no wonder he is still revered at Celtic Park as in 313 appearances for the club, he scored a staggering 242 goals. He was signed in 1997 from Feyenoord by the then manager Wim Jansen for a paltry £650,000 in what surely must be one of the best value transfer deals in the history of football. Jansen never really was a success at Celtic, but he should be recognised for this astounding piece of transfer business.
Here is the great Henrik doing what he did so often for Celtic, score against Rangers...
During his seven year spell with Celtic, he won four SPL titles, two Scottish Cups and two Sottish League Cups. He was top scorer in Scotland for five of the six seasons he played for Celtic despite being out for nearly a year with a career-threatening leg break suffered against Lyon in a Champions League match.
He had won pretty much every accolade available in Scotland so in 2004 he ventured further afield to fulfil some personal ambitions and signed for Barcelona on a free transfer. Unfortunately for the Swede his two-year spell in Barcelona was plagued by injuries. However, typically, when he did play he had a massive impact and he had none bigger than his appearance for Barca against Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League Final when he came off the bench to make both of Barca's goals as they came from behind to beat the Gunners 2-1.
An obviously disappointed Thierry Henry was left in no doubt who the most influential person in that final was...
Following his two-year spell at the Nou Camp, where he won two La Liga titles and a Champions League, he returned to his native Sweden to play for his hometown club, Helsingborg. During this spell, in the middle of the first off-season period for the Swedish League between January and March, he was signed on loan by Alex Ferguson for Manchester United.
He made his debut in an FA Cup match at Old Trafford against Aston Villa and, of course, he scored...
He went on to score three goals in a 13-match spell in Manchester and despite several attempts by Ferguson and United to get him to extend his stay, he returned to his club Helsingborg to kick off the new Swedish League season.
Internationally, he played 106 times for his country and scored 37 goals in total. He played in three World Cups, scoring in each one and also three European Championships for Sweden. During the 2004 Euros in Portugal he scored this goal against Bulgaria, which was voted the goal of the tournament...
Henrik Larsson has been an unqualified success wherever he has travelled and is viewed affectionately by football supporters everywhere. The word 'legend' is bandied about all too frequently these days, but it is certainly apt when describing the Swede.
Happy birthday Henrik.