Just How Greater Could Larsson Have Been?

For those of you who missed it on Tuesday night, there was a thoroughly enjoyable Charity match held at Celtic Park as a tribute to former Hoops defender John Kennedy who had to retire due to injury in 2009.

The game billed as a clash between Celtic and Manchester United legends was certainly a good game to watch and it was brilliant that a crowd of well over 50,000 people turned up to watch, especially in today’s economic climate where most average families are struggling to cope.

Celtic went onto win the game 5-2 with Henrik Larsson scoring a hat-trick for the Hoops much to the delight of the hosts wonderful set of supporters. Larsson of course had 7 wonderful years up in Scotland scoring 242 goals and he terrorised defences in the SPL where for a number of years very few players could cope with his pace and skill.

The one blemish on his career of course was that he didn’t leave Celtic sooner than when he did. When he joined Barcelona at the age of 32 after the 2004 European Championships in Portugal, many people questioned how he would get on in Spain where arguably the quality and standard of defending, yet alone the league would be tougher.

In two years at the Nou Camp though he showed in glimpses that he was certainly good enough to score goals in tougher conditions and was a key member of Frank Rijkaard squad that in 2006 went onto win a League and Champions League double. In fact but for injury Larsson would have probably achieved more even if he would have been in the shadows of Samuel Eto’o and the superstar that was Ronaldiniho.

In January of his final season in Spain, Larrson announced that he would be joining Helsingborg back in Sweden to finish of his career. British football fans though were wrong to presume that that would be the end that they would see of the great forward as surprisingly in December it was announced that he would be joining United the following spring on a short loan spell.

Whilst only scoring 3 times for us in 13 appearances, Larrson’s hard-work and professionalism won over our players and supporters and many were disappointed that he was not able to stay another a month or two especially as at the time we were fighting to win a Treble.

True to his word, Larsson returned to Helsingborg in March to prepare for the new Allsvenskan season due to start in April. For the next 3 seasons he continued to play at a high standard before retiring at the end of the 2009 season.

In many ways it’s a shame that Sir Alex was unable to sign Larrson earlier during his prime at Celtic as there’s no doubt, as we’ve seen that he would have scored regularly in the Premier League.  Of course the marking would have been tougher in England, so in that respect he wouldn’t have got alot of ‘easy’ goals that he did in the SPL, but you can bet that the likes of David Beckham and Ryan Giggs would have loved playing alongside him and would have created lots of goals for him.

Whilst he was not the quickest centre-forward, there’s no doubt he was one of the cleverest to have graced the game in the last 15-20 years. In many ways it’s sad that there will always be critics of Larsson who will always ask or doubt why he never leaved Celtic to join a club of the same stature in a bigger league as he could have achieved so much more in the game than he did.

Of course as Larsson has always said when answering this question, he stayed at Celtic because he loved the team and the lifestyle he had in Glasgow and it’s very hard to criticise a player for staying true to his world like that – certainly in today’s football where sadly money as we know talks.

Larsson at the end of the day is happy with what he achieved in his career, so with that respect it’s a shame others looking back on his career can’t do so as well. But that’s football sadly and people will always perhaps selfishly regret the fact that the best years of his career were in Scotland where his efforts perhaps would have meant more in a bigger league.

By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87