Newly crowned Swedish champions Elfsborg have eye toward copying the success of Nordic neighbors BK Rosenborg and FC Copenhagen and using success in Europe to fund years of Swedish titles.
"Now we’re going to win this thing 10 years in a row," club director Stefan Andreasson said.
The recipe for success, however, isn’t quite in the mixer. To remain at the top of the Allsvenskan Elfsborg must first get into the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, something no Swedish team has done in more than a decade. Elfsborg chairman Bosse Johansson, however, said he believes his side has the right mix and experience to reach the final 32 of the biggest lcub tournament in Europe.
"We have played in Europe for seven seasons now and we’ve invested in it every year. We’re going to do the same now when it comes to qualifying for the Champions League," Johansson said. "But if, and I mean if, we reach the group stages of the Champions League it’s worth 10 times more money than the Europa League – and that would give us great possibilities."
Johansson’s dream of bigger budgets has its root in the success of Danish side FC Copenhagen and Norwegian champions BK Rosenborg. Both have used their success in the Champions League – where wins and ties equals big prize money – to fund their continuing success in the domestic leagues. However, no Swedish club has made the group stage since Helsingborg knocked out Inter Milan to qualify for the 2000/2001 tournament.
Stripped of this financial advantage, no club has managed to defend the Swedish league since Djurgården landed back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.
There were four teams in the mix for the championship in the final weeks and it was only in the penultimate round that Elfsborg got its nose in front of Malmo and Häcken.
Led by former Sweden Under-21 coach Jorgen Lennartsson, Elfsborg may not have had the strongest players in every position, but it certainly was the best-organized and most consistent team, especially at home.
The Boras Arena proved to be a fortress with the champions dropping only six points in 15 unbeaten league games and conceding a measly five goals. Their form off their beloved artificial pitch was sketchier, losing seven and drawing two of their fifteen away games.
Their artificial home pitch may prove an advantage in Europe, but it will be Elfsborg’s ability to keep players and strengthen the squad that will be key.
The midfield pairing of Anders Svensson and Oscar Hiljemark was probably the best in the league all season. However, Svensson will be 37 next year and Hiljemark is likely to attract interest from bigger European clubs. Though effective enough going forward, the champions have also lacked an out-and-out goal scorer to make the most of the chances created by Svensson’s sublime passing.
Still, Johansson said many of those questions would find their answer as the Borås outfit prepares to play its Champions League qualifiers.
“We know what we need and we are already looking at some interesting players,” he said. “I am sure we will be ready for the Champions League.”