On this day 17 years ago Celtic changed the course of the clubs history by signing a man who would capture the imagination of the support and become a Celtic Legend in the process – that man was Henrik Larsson.
On the 25th of July 1997, Wim Jansen paraded his brand new signing to the world. Signing from Feynoord for a fee of £650,000 and the rest as they say is history.
He was truly a world class player. When he came to Celtic we were on our knees and when he left we were the dominant force in Scottish football – his influence not to be played down.
But he wasn’t always revered by the Celtic support. On his debut for Celtic he came on as a sub only to famously pass to Hibernian’s Chic Charnley who then scored costing Celtic the match.
Also his first goal at Parkhead was less than memorable, scoring an own goal in a UEFA Cup match for Tirol Innsbruck of Austria. Thankfully Celtic ran out 6-3 winners in the end.
(4:14 for Larsson OG)
That was soon all forgiven as he would lead the way in the 97/98 season that seen Celtic stop their greatest rivals from taking the history books with 10 in a row. On the final day of the season Larsson netted the first on a dramatic day in Paradise that would see Celtic crowned Champions for the first time since 1988.
He would go on to play under Jo Venglos where Celtic were less successful and would sustain a leg break under the John Barnes regime in Lyon that would see him miss the rest of that season.
Enter Martin O’Neill.
Under the Northern Irishman the striker truly played his best football. Martin paired him up with Chris Sutton and it was a match made in heaven. The two combining to great effect very early on when O’Neill’s new Celtic side thrashed Rangers 6-2. Two goals from Henrik, one of which is still talked about to this day.
Yes, ‘THAT chip’ is an image which is now ingrained into the fabric of the clubs history.
Getting to the UEFA cup final was a special achievement for Celtic and Henrik and it was heart breaking that the player would score not once but twice in the final only to come out with a runners up medal. It was a fantastic achievement nonetheless.
The striker would score a whopping 242 goals for the club in his time there. To the Celtic fans he was the king of kings and I suspect to many he still is.
But all good things must come to an end and in 2004 the player left Celtic on a free after 7 wonderful years at the club. On his final day at Paradise the player broke down on the pitch as the fans saluted the legend. Not a dry eye in the house that day, and fittingly Henrik scored the two goals that won Celtic the game against Dundee Utd.
Here was his interview after that game.
Henrik would go on to sign for Barcelona and not surprisingly ended up playing Celtic in the Champions League, scoring a goal against his old club. In his second season he would come on a substitute in the Champions League final to set up two goals for the Catalans as they came from behind against Arsenal. The Swedish striker finally getting his hands on a European trophy and deservedly so.
Hail Hail King Henrik!
Trivia (Celtic Wiki)
• A Celtic legend.
• Scored this 200th goal for Celtic in the UEFA cup final.
• Won the European Golden Boot for highest goals scorer in Europe in 2000/01.
• Larsson is actually his mother’s maiden name. He was given the name as felt would help him fit in more easily.
• Scored an own goal in his European Debut for Celtic.
• His signature tune at Parkhead was the theme tune from “The Magnificent Seven” (a western movie), no.7 was his jersey number.
• Henrik’s first and last goals at Celtic Park were for teams other than Celtic. OG for FC Tirol Insbruuk in August 1998 and Barca in 2004
• Trademark: After scoring a goal he used to stick his tongue out hanging (in homage to a basketball player).