Barely had the dust settled from another round of SPL fixtures when news came in that Celtic had completed the signing of a new midfielder. Freddie Ljungberg the ex-Arsenal and Seattle Sounders player had signed on a free transfer. The timing of the move meant the possibility of a debut in Sunday’s Old Firm game.

The move seemed to divide the Celtic fans straight down the middle, on one side you will find fans filled with optimism. Ki Sung-Yeung will miss a few weeks on international duty and Ljungberg could be the player to help a stuttering Celtic midfield break down the opposition and add that little bit of experience.

On the other side fans were citing his age, at 33 does he have the legs? The list of injuries that saw his time at West Ham cut short, some calling the Swede a MLS reject. Basically thinking he’s finished and Lennon should be concentrating on filling other positions.

Listening to the fans bicker about the merits of this signing cast the mind back to November 1998. Doctor Jozef Venglos was the man in the Celtic hot seat and before the busy Christmas period he wrote a cheque to MSV Duisburg for £300,000. The signing had everyone ask the same question. Who?

Lubomir Moravcik was 33 years old when he first pulled on the famous green and white hoops and after spells with Bastia in Ligue 1 and Duisburg in the Bundesliga he wasn’t exactly well known around the world, especially in this pre-internet pre-twitter existence.

Even at the relatively low transfer fee the fans were still questioning the idea behind the signing. An unknown quantity in the twilight of his career, it couldn’t surely be a good move. Lubo didn’t take long to answer his critics and fast became a fans favourite, with the Parkhead faithful chanting his name.

He made his debut in the 6-1 defeat of Dundee, setting up goals for Mark Burchill and Henrik Larsson, with superb vision and ability to pick a pass he had the fans purring after his 70 minute passing master-class. His next game would again be home at Celtic Park this time Rangers were the visitors.

If the fans weren’t already convinced by his classy display against Dundee, it only took eleven minutes for the Slovakian to win over the doubters. Simon Donnelly was played down the left, his cut back was dummied by Larsson, it took one swing of Moravcik’s left foot and the ball flashed past the helpless Antti Niemi and into the Rangers net.

Moravcik headed in his and Celtic’s second just after half time. The home side went on to record a famous 5-1 victory, the midfielder had cemented his place in Celtic folklore. Over the next four years he played 94 times for the club, forming a tremendous partnership with Henrik Larsson and scored 29 goals into the bargain.

Ljungberg could turn out to be another Moravcik, or he could turn out to be a dud meaning all those LJUNGBERG #7 jerseys sold this weekend placed out of sight at the back of the wardrobe. However until he has a chance to pull on the shirt and show the fans what he has up his sleeve the debate will rumble on.

This Sunday’s match is the second Old Firm encounter of the season, in the last meeting Celtic lacked that spark of quality that is needed to win the big games and lost 3-1. Ljungberg could be given the chance to put his name in the history books, playing part in a winning team would be a wonderful start. He only needs to look to the opposition and see 40 year old David Weir playing at such a high level to realise that at the tender age of 33 he could still be a hero in the SPL.

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9 comments

January 2nd, 2011

Great to see a positive piece on the legend that was Lubo Moravcik! Unfortunately back then I was only 16 and hadn’t really developed my love for all things Slovak, but all I know is that Moravcik is still talked about as being one of the finest exports from Slovakia! Good work Gib!

gibfootball

January 2nd, 2011

He was a legend mate, one of the best players I got to watch in the flesh, to celebrate I bought the Lubo: A gift from god DVD, we can watch it in Lille haha

Kevin

January 2nd, 2011

Moravcik was an unknown quantity.

Ljunberg isn’t. He’s done. He can’t hack it at the MLs level – and I’m a big fan of MLS,, so I’ve seen enough of him – his pace has gone, he can’t handle the physical side of the game. He’s a shadow of the player he once was and while you might get an odd flash of the Freddie of old now and then, in a couple of years time folk will look back to this transfer and think “wtf was that all about?”.

gibfootball

January 2nd, 2011

Fair play Kevin, Lennon had him for a few days though, must have seen enough in training to want to give him a shot. I agree he wasn’t brilliant in the MLS, who knows what can happen though.

January 2nd, 2011

[...] “Barely had the dust settled from another round of SPL fixtures when news came in that Celtic had completed the signing of a new midfielder. Freddie Ljungberg the ex-Arsenal and Seattle Sounders player had signed on a free transfer. The timing of the move meant the possibility of a debut in Sunday’s Old Firm game.” gib football show [...]

Joe

January 2nd, 2011

Kevin, do I detect a little bit of fear from a Rangers fan there?

January 3rd, 2011

Great player – I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot recently. Nice piece (as ever!)

RCM

http://leftbackinthechangingroom.blogspot.com

gibfootball

January 4th, 2011

Found your comment in the spam filter for some reason.

Not sure Freddie can emulate the performances of Lubo but I’m all for trying him out for 6 months, I thought of your pieces when I wrote it. It’s definitely something the SPL clubs should look at.

January 4th, 2011

A really interesting read, be great to see how the Ljungberg experiment turns out. Hope he shines, always liked him.

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