I have spent my afternoon watching the first half of the Total Larsson DVD. If it isn’t obvious it’s a DVD that shows you nearly every goal Henrik Larsson scored for Helsingborg, Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. It is an absolute pleasure to watch the man in his prime.

Something occurred to me while enjoying some of his best goals and I feel very very lucky. Although I had already been to Celtic Park on many an occasion I finally purchased my first season ticket in the same season that for a measly £650,000 Celtic secured the signature of Henrik Larsson from Dutch giants Feyenoord.

Before my move to Leeds in 2004 I spent seven seasons watching Henrik score 242 goals. I’m not sure how many I witnessed first-hand but there was a feeling in the stadium you were witnessing something special. While recounting some of his finest moments this afternoon a depressing thought entered my mind. It would come as a great surprise if any player that pulls on a Celtic jersey in the next 20-30 years will ever come close to being on the same level as Larsson was.

There are a few reasons behind this thought. Larsson played at the highest level for seven years and at the same club. Apart from the seven goals he scored in the season he broke his leg in Lyon and the sixteen goals in his first season at Celtic he never scored less than twenty eight league goals just an amazing achievement for any player.

Nowadays in modern football loyalty is a forgotten trait, two or three seasons playing at a high level and they are off to another club for a wage increase or fall out with the club because they won’t pay them more. Football agents don’t help; if a player stays loyal they don’t get the big payout that keeps them in fancy cars and houses.

After Larsson’s bad injury he returned with his best ever tally, 35 league goals and 53 in total breaking the post war record set by Charlie Nicholas. The big clubs came sniffing around, Manchester United were very interested rumours of a £7 million pound bid rejected by the club. Larsson stated he wanted to stay at Celtic; there was no need for him to prove himself in any other league. He was happy at Celtic, how refreshing is that to hear!

Now if any club brings through or buys a promising player, two good seasons and they are whisked off to a bigger club, some make it; some are sold off as a flop. Maybe spending five or six seasons at the original club would do them the world of good.

From the day Henrik arrived at Celtic Park he played with numerous strike partners, Darren Jackson, Harald Brattbakk, Chris Sutton and John Hartson a mixture of the sublime and the simply awful. Larsson however was always top dog. Then since his departure many have come to fill the void, Henri Camara, Maciej Zurawski, Jan Vennegoor of Hessellink, Giorgios Samaras, Scott McDonald, Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper again a very mixed bag of quality.

Gary Hooper is a great prospect, he has hit the ground running, unfortunate with two injuries so far in his first season he has however scored 11 goals for his new club this season, and Celtic fans hope he is the next goal scoring hero to grace Celtic Park.

Personally the only player to capture my imagination since the departure of Larsson was Shunsuke Nakamura, although a completely different player from the Swedish striker he was a cut above the quality of player at the club, so assured on the ball he was able to dazzle and delight with moments of pure genius.

Scottish football is in a dark place, the lure of European football is fading fast. No longer can the Old Firm dangle the carrot of Champions League in front of potential new signings. And with the league in a mess it doesn’t look like an attractive proposition. Sorry to depress but it seems that it will be a long time until Celtic Park or the SPL see the likes of Nakamura or Larsson again.

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2 comments

December 31st, 2010

Nice tribute to Larsson. As a player he had so much going for him: excellent finisher, great upper body strength and superb in the air for a guy of his height.

However, most important of all was his attitude – he worked his backside off for his team and didn’t act the superstar, despite being the main man in that Celtic side. He only broke his leg because he was chasing back to win possession.

He made his mark at Barcelona but I think it’s fair to say he gave Celtic the best years of his career.

gibfootball

December 31st, 2010

Totally agree mate, it was a pleasure to watch him in the flesh and you could just watch and admire his workrate and effort, and superb player, not sure we’ll see the likes of again.

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