Throwback: Henrik Larsson signs for Celtic (1997)
Some transfers are more than a case of a footballer changing what uniform he wears, signing a little piece of paper and posing for some photographs, before cracking on with a new job.
When Henrik Larsson arrived in Glasgow in 1997 on July 25th, there was an expectation that he simply had to be more than just that. Rangers had just won a ninth successive league title, leaving their eternal rivals, Celtic, the young Swede’s new club, in need of change.
Worse still for the Bhoys, their best strikers seemed to come and go freely. The enigmatic but loveable Paolo Di Canio had just left with Larsson his direct replacement. Pierre van Hooijdonk and John Collins had left a season before, leaving Celtic in desperate need of striking power and the media saw it the same way. So you can imagine how they reacted when this former Feyenoord striker got off to a slow start.
The £650,000 spent on Larsson looked to be a rip-off as on his first game, he passed the ball to an opposing player who would go on to score a winning goal. His European debut for Celtic was marked by an own-goal and it would take until the 24-year-old turned 25, that September, for him to score his first goal in the green-and-white.
Those first goals would eventually turn into 242 goals from the 313 games in which Larsson would play for Celtic. Spending seven years at the club, he went from an unfancied striker to perhaps Celtic’s greatest player of the modern age. A natural finisher and poacher, but one with an ability to score sensational goals, too. Despite the slow(ish) start, his impact was actually an instant as it could possibly be in terms of silverware as Celtic ended their wait for a title in that 1997/98 season.
Three more league titles, a league and cup double in his final year at Celtic, plus a narrow defeat to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the 2003 UEFA Cup final stand as the tangible relics on his time in Glasgow. But more than that, that dreadlocked Swede would become a cult hero and a true legend of the modern game, beloved by the green-and-white side of a city. His final farewell at Parkdean said it all…
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