The big interview: Henrik Larsson – "I got letters from parents, upset that their kids were running around with their tongues out"
After losing the Champions League final with Arsenal in 2006, Thierry Henry said: “People will talk about [Samuel] Eto’o and Ronaldinho a lot, but they should be talking about the players who made the difference like Henrik Larsson with his two assists.” How did his words make you feel?
Jonny Ritchie, Fraserburgh
It was great to hear that from a player like him. Coming on and contributing to turning the game was fantastic. When Eto’o and [Juliano] Belletti scored, I just felt amazing. As a kid you dream about the Champions League. That was the best moment of my career, without a doubt.
Ronaldinho described you as his idol. How was your relationship with him?
Andy Evans, Hereford
He used to joke every morning, “Hey, idolo, idolo!” That was great! It wasn’t just about what he did on the pitch; you have to realise the pressure he was under at a club like Barcelona. I take my hat off to him for still being able to come in every morning with a big smile on his face. He’s a great human being.
Did you know how special Lionel Messi was going to be when he was breaking into Barcelona’s first team?
Jim Savage, via Twitter
I remember saying to Giovanni van Bronckhorst when we were in Asia on a pre-season tour: “Who’s that guy?” When I saw him in practice there, I thought, ‘Wow’. The close control, the balance – it was all there, even back then. He was good then, but now he’s great. At that time he didn’t have all the skills to do everything he’s doing now, but sometimes in practice you’d still think, ‘Woah, clucking hell’.
Why did you decide to leave Barcelona?
Xavier Tort, Tarragona
I didn’t want to be on the bench any more. I felt that I still had a few good years left in me and I wanted to play. That’s why I came home to play in Sweden, plus my son was 10 and I wanted to give him the opportunity to call somewhere home. I made the right decision. I won the Swedish Cup with Helsingborgs but more importantly, if I look at my son, this is his home town, he has met his friends and he’s enjoying his life here.
Your son, Jordan, is at Helsingborgs and was linked with Rangers. Would you disown him if he signed for them?
Steven O’Kane, Dublin
He would never do that! [FFT: What about Celtic?] It’s up to him what he wants to do. If he’s good enough, he will get the chance. He’s promising, for sure, but there’s more pressure on him than on any other 19-year-old here in Sweden. In the first part of this season he was fantastic, but when things don’t go so well, he gets a little too much stick as he’s my son. But he’s strong enough to handle things.
Do you regret spending only two months at Manchester United in 2007?
Paul Kay, Frodsham
Yes, that’s the only regret I have in my career. I should’ve stayed, as it would have meant I got a Premier League winner’s medal, and I would have stayed for one more season. But I still had a contract with Helsingborgs and I feel that when you sign a contract, you have to see it out. Everything was professional at United. When I had to attend a christening for my brother’s children, the club ordered a plane to take me there after a match. United really take care of all their players.
What was the best goal you ever scored?
Anthony Moore, London
I would say it was the little dink in the derby at home to Rangers. That was special for me because of the nutmeg on Bert Konterman first. Then Stefan Klos was coming out of his goal, but the ball was going in as soon as it left my right boot. People still talk about that goal a lot!
Do you think that you spent too many seasons in Scotland, even with all of your fantastic achievements there?
Tom, via Facebook
No, I don’t. I got to play in the biggest tournaments – the Champions League and UEFA Cup, the Euros, World Cups – scoring goals wherever I was. Then, at 35, I showed that I could still do a job at Man United, even if I wasn’t at the peak of my powers.
[FFT: Was going to Barcelona and Man United about you proving anything?] No, as I showed it in 2002 by scoring three times at the World Cup, and I think I was one of the better strikers at Euro 2004. I signed for Barcelona and all of a sudden people said, “Maybe he’s not bad after all”. If you understand the game then you understand that I was quite a decent striker.
You’ve played in the most fiercely contested games in world football: Ajax-Feyenoord, Celtic-Rangers, Barcelona-Real Madrid. Which is the biggest in terms of passion?
Jun Kaloustian, via Facebook
The Old Firm, without doubt. The noise was incredible. If we were a couple of yards apart on the pitch, I’d have trouble reaching you with my voice. [FFT: Bigger than the Clasico?] Yes. The Old Firm is hectic, but it feels great when you win and I won more than I lost. I think I scored 15 goals in 30 games – a pretty good record!
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Would you manage Celtic, or are you scared it could ruin your status there?
Anthony, via Twitter
As long as I’m doing this work I am going to be connected to Celtic, but they have got a great manager now. They spoke to me about the job two years ago, but the timing wasn’t right. Here at Helsingborgs there have been ups and downs, but that is all part of management. You need to learn how to handle it. My managerial ambitions are the same as I had as a player: to become as good as possible and to join the big teams in the big leagues.
This feature originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!