When Henrik Larsson retired as a player after the 2009 Allsvenskan, he made no secret of his wish to become head coach of Glasgow Celtic, the team with which he rose to near-mythical status.
by Chipp Reid
On Dec. 14 Larsson took the first step toward that goal when he signed a one year deal with Landskrona as the team’s new manager.
“I am very flattered by this offer, given that I don't have any bigger experience as a coach,” the 38-year-old Larsson said. “I look forward to [the job] and we'll see where I can take this.”
Landskrona finished eighth in the 16-team Superettan in 2009 and has been up and down in the Allsvenskan for the past decade. Once a powerhouse of Swedish club football, Landskrona fell on hard times in the 1990s and is currently dealing with economic woes. Four players even refused to sign with BoIS until the club changed management.
“We wanted a change. This sounds really exciting," said team captain Linus Malmqvist.
Malmqvist has only met "Henke" on a couple occasions, but like many others he followed Larsson's remarkable career. Malmqvist said he didn’t know what to expect but believes Larsson’s appointment is a major step toward rebuilding the club.
“I don’t know him that well so I have really no idea how he will be as coach, but this may well be the start of a new bright future,” Malmqvist said. “He must have many ideas and it will be inspiring and exciting to learn from them. In addition, he has a natural authority that will rub off on our players.”
Larsson brings with him a wealth of international experience as well as years of training at the highest level. In addition to Celtic, Larsson enjoyed successful spells with FC Barcelona in Spain and English giants Manchester United, where he played for Sir Alex Ferguson, a man many consider to be the best football trainer in the world.
Fredrik Olsson, who played with Larsson at Helsingborg and now plays for Landskrona, said he believes Larsson’s experience can only help his new team.
“He is a fantastic footballer and a really good guy,” Olsson said. “Given his vast experience, he has every chance to succeed even as a coach. Henke had a major leadership role in HIF and he was good at giving instructions during training. He often came up with useful little tips everyone could use.”
Landskrona chairman Kenneth Håkansson said when the team decided to rebuild, "We realized quite quickly that there was one name that was number one, and that was Henke.”
"He's a new face and person with modern thinking and pedigree,” Håkansson said.
Håkansson also said having Larsson as coach immediately makes Landskrona a player in the transfer market.
“We are clearly more attractive,” he said.
Larsson said he wanted to take a look at the players currently on his roster before he makes any big moves but adds that his years abroad gave him numerous contacts.
“I will immediately start my work on reviewing the players—what is needed and not needed. I need more time to decide,” Larsson said. “I have little hooks out there, but I must also be a realist when it comes to the level of the economy and so on. I know it is hard work ahead; there are no shortcuts to take.”
Larsson is arguably the most successful Swedish football player ever, rivaling even the great Nils Liedholm, Gunnar Nordahl and Gunnar Gren of the 1950s. He earned 106 caps with Sweden and played in his last international in October 2009. Larsson enjoyed club success with Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and had a short but highly successful stint on loan under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. He won a Champions League medal with Barcelona in 2006 and was part of the Swedish team that finished third at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. He also won the Golden Boot in 2001 as Europe's top club scorer during his time at Celtic Park.
Despite his success, however, Larsson had no illusions about his latest football venture.
“I know this will be an incredibly tough challenge for me,” he said. “But if you don't dare, you don't win anything. It's an interesting club. They have an idea and thoughts about the future. They know what they want.”
Allbäck joins national team
Henrik Larsson isn’t the only former Swedish international to make the change from the pitch to the blackboard. The Swedish Football Association announced Marcus Allbäck, Larsson's international teammate, is to retire from playing to become an assistant coach with the national team.
Sweden coach Erik Hamrén said Allbäck would work as a link between him and the players. Hamrén replaced Lars Lagerbäck, who resigned in October after Sweden failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
Allbäck had been playing for Swedish team Örgryte.
The 36-year-old striker played for Aston Villa in 2002-04 before moving to German club Hansa Rostock. In 2005 he joined FC Copenhagen and helped the club win the Danish league twice before moving back to his home club Örgryte, in Göteborg, in 2008.
Allbäck played in two World Cups and two European Championships for Sweden.