It’s 15 years to the day since Henrik Larsson last pulled on the Hoops in a competitive game at Celtic Park. The opposition at a sun-drenched Paradise that day were Dundee United. The match itself didn’t matter a great lot as Celtic had already wrapped up the league title long before, but the stadium was still packed and for one very important reason.
They had come to see the King of Kings for the final time – in a Celtic shirt at least. Larsson delivered on the day, netting both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Terrors. He celebrated both strikes like they were his first for the club. That was the mark of the man.
Larsson broke down in tears as he re-emerged to a rapturous Celtic Park following the game. The fans chanted his name as he took his final lap of honour at the stadium.
The Swedish goal-machine was at it a week later as Celtic secured the double with a 3-1 victory over Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup final. Hampden had been stunned when the Pars took a shock lead, but Larsson wasn’t for ending his Hoops career with a defeat as he rose to the occasion once more. He netted twice to put Celtic ahead before Stiliyan Petrov added the crucial third.
Will we ever see his like again?
The likes of Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele have scored barrowloads for Celtic in recent seasons. The latter also did it on the biggest of nights for Celtic in Europe. However, neither had the consistency or longevity of Larsson.
Numerous players have been hailed as “the next Larsson” since 2004 but the truth is that there will never be another version of the Swede. Football has changed to the level where any Celtic star playing that well would now be likely to move on within two or three years.
Larsson played seven full seasons at the top of his game for the club. That won’t be seen again anytime soon, for a striker at least.