Football’s Sacred Cows: #2 Henrik Larsson
by Kevin Henning
Following on from the Sacred Cow article that named Luis Figo as the most overrated Ballon d’Or winner of all time, I’ve decided to nominate a player of my own for this series. It may be a controversial choice, indeed the boss of the Daisy Cutter has been so concerned about this that I’ve had to hack into the site and put this up myself. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Henrik Larsson.
“Good Lord!” I hear you cry, “Have you looked at his goalscoring record?” I have indeed. A most impressive 174 goals in 221 appearances for Celtic. No offence to our Scottish readers but it’s hardly the elite of world football is it? So he rattled in a few hat-tricks against Motherwell and Kilmanock and scored a few in the free-for-all, defensive nightmares that pass for an Old Firm derby, well done Henke. You terrorised a piss poor league. Having been a laughing stock who couldn’t hit a horse’s rear with a ukalele at Manchester City during one particularly dark period, Georgios Samaras is now the main man in Celtic’s attack. That’s the standard we’re talking about. Marco Negri (remember him?) scored 23 goals in 10 appearances for Rangers before the shuttlecock incident of 1997 but nobody gave him an MBE.
Larsson did eventually leave the Glasgow club to join Barcelona but waited until he was 33 years old to do so. Had he made the same move 5 years earlier when at his peak at 28, we’d have seen whether the Swedish striker could have lived with the true greats of European football. 40 appearances in two seasons suggest that he wasn’t exactly the lynchpin at the Catalan outfit and was possibly signed as a cheap option to fill a squad place and sell replica shirts.
I’m not suggesting for a minute that Larsson was a poor player, far from it. I’m merely asking whether he was the marksman of a generation he has been painted as or merely a very good striker in a league where flat track bullies can plunder comedic defences week in – week out.
“The King of Kings” returned to his hometown club Helsingborgs for the advent of his career, enjoyed a brief loan spell at Manchester United where, despite not playing the mandatory ten matches to earn a championship medal, the Premier League decided that Saint Henrik should be granted special dispensation and got one anyway!
His international career whilst impressive, was hardly the stuff of legend either. 37 goals in 106 games for Sweden has already been bettered by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 30 less caps during a period where Sweden haven’t been anything like as consistant as they were during Larsson’s career. Larsson’s legend has been exaggerated to the point where he is held aloft amongst the very top players of the last three decades when I can only consider him one of the also rans. Where does this hype come from? Is it the fact that he has played for 3 clubs who like to overstate their own greatness to anyone who’ll listen in Celtic, United and Barcelona?
If there are no contradictory opinions, I will without further delay, admit Henrik Larsson to the Overrated Hall of Sacred Cows.