For Celtic supporters, there is nobody quite like Henrik Larsson.
On a personal level, it was the King of Kings who I grew up adoring. His dreadlocks, his goals and his effortlessly brilliant play was outstanding to watch. Larsson could do it all; set-pieces, headers, outrageous chips, goals in Europe, goals against minnows. Everyone and anyone could get the Larsson treatment. His goalscoring did not discriminate.
Larsson joined as a curiosity and left as a legend. Few could’ve predicted that he’d go on, in his mid-to-late thirties, to win a Champions League with Barcelona. And, if that wasn’t enough, he helped Manchester United to a title in 07-08. A beloved Swedish footballing hero, even our rivals had to admit to his immense qualities.
As a manger, though, it’s not quite been the same roaring success. In his first job as a head coach, with Landskrona, he achieved his best win percentage [Transfermarkt]. Even then, Larsson had been expected to guide them to promotion to the Swedish top-flight, but over three seasons, he finished 5th, 10th and 6th.
After that, he had a mediocre spell at Falkenberg, before two stints at his beloved Helsingborgs. The first reign ended in relegation and fans abusing him. The second ended from… well, fans abusing him again.
Now, he’s working under Ronald Koeman at Barcelona. Yes, his name will come up every time we need a manager, but should it?
Celtic hero Henrik Larsson; a very, very risky idea
I doubt there’s anyone in the Celtic support who’d not be delighted to see Henrik Larsson back at the club in some form. During charity matches, he’s genuinely looked good enough to come back as a player.
“For me, that’s just the way it is as I’m so connected with Celtic that my name will always be mentioned there (for the managerial job) and I’m so fortunate to still be remembered as a player and hopefully as a person as well. It isn’t a burden in any way. It’s a blessing.
“Yes (he would want to return to the UK). It’s a culture that I’m accustomed to and a language that I have a decent grasp of. Of course it would interest me however it’s very tough to get in. You need to know the right people or the right agent.
“Time will tell if things are going to be like that. It’s impossible for me to give an answer that isn’t misinterpreted by some. So as I say, time will tell if things will be like that.”
Buyer beware, however. Neil Lennon has just left Celtic, and the damage to his reputation has been incalculable. We, as supporters, were left in the uncomfortable position of criticising a club legend. It left a horrible taste, and it caused a division in the support between those who backed Lennon regardless, and those who desperately craved new management.
The emotional case for Larsson
However much we rely on statistics, data and career experience, football is an emotional sport. We don’t, or I should say, most of us don’t love football because of, say, pass completion percentages. It’s the subjective, not the objective, that we love about football. Sentiment wins nearly every time.
And nobody is associated with sentiment more than Henrik Larsson in the modern era. Our last world-class player, Larsson was and is an absolute hero to so many, this writer included. Imagine seeing him succeed with us. It’d be magical.
It’s just that his CV dictates that probably wouldn’t happen. Ok, the Swedish leagues are very different. Moreover, Larsson will be enjoying an excellent education in Catalonia.
Still, it’s not a comfortable fit just yet. With Helsingborgs, he already took over at a team close to his heart, and both times it ended in disaster.
So, perhaps the idea of Larsson as a Celtic manager is better in theory than in practice. In theory, it’s a wonderful idea, something to tug at the heart-strings. Nothing would be better than winning titles and competing in Europe under manager Henrik Larsson.
The likelihood of that, though, is something that’s incredibly debatable.
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