Saturday, December 02, 2006

Does that mean I have to follow ManU for 3 months now?

By now, everyone and their dog probably knows that Henrik Larsson - one of my favourite players and probably one of the most beloved and classy players still active in top flight football - is going to Manchester United on loan in January 2007 for 10 weeks during the winter break of the Swedish season. Congratulations to ManU - what a clever piece of business.

When I first saw this news, I felt sad. Irrational, I know. But I think I got a taste of what the Celtic faithful felt like when Larsson showed up in a Barcelona kit, although of course their depth of feeling would be stronger, given what 'Henke' means to them.

From a Barcelonista's point of view, I will say this - the club management better have some good news about Sammy Eto'o's injury that they're keeping from us, otherwise they've messed up, because they were the ones who were first linked to this sort of deal. Barca won't be short of strikers in January, but a man who can play on either wing or as a center forward, all to excellent effect, would be an asset for any team - as he showed in his time at the Spanish club. Plus, on a purely selfish note, I miss watching him play.

To those who doubt his ability to play in the Premiership, you only have to look at his performances for Barcelona. (For those who need reminding, my tribute post to the great man covers most of it.)

Here's Barca coach Frank Rijkaard's comments on the move:
"I have to congratulate the player and the club. He is a great player and he deserves it; he demonstrated it here and I hope everything goes well for him".
As usual, I agree with him.

He's just won the Swedish Cup with his hometown club Helsingborgs, adding to an impressive collection of trophies and gifting them with qualification for the UEFA Cup. At 35, my only concern would be that he's lost a bit of his old pace, and as everyone keeps saying the Premiership is a fast league. Still, finishing and tactical intelligence doesn't go away with age.

One caveat, though - Henke won't be happy to sit on the bench and wait for one of the first choice forwards to get injured. There won't be any drama because Larsson is the consummate professional, but make no mistake, he will be trying to force his way into the starting line-up. It's in his nature to despise rotation, even while never complaining about it. (Kevin McCarra of the Guardian has a good article about the subject.)

I sincerely hope that he has a great time there and leaves ManU with a medal or two in his pocket, although of course not at Barca's expense. Oh yeah, those who are saying he'll sign a permanent deal at United? Never going to happen. This is Larsson we're talking about - a man who knows just when to make his exit.

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