The best Swedish players to play in the Premier League
Not every player who has pulled on the Blågult has succeeded in the world's most demanding league, so who exactly were Sweden’s most successful exports to the Premier League?
Henrik Larsson may have only spent ten weeks at Manchester United on loan and played seven Premier League games for the Red Devils whilst scoring one goal, but his impact was enough to help United win the 2006/2007 Premier League title. The Swede brought with him the experience that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side needed to get through the winter months whilst their title bid was faltering. Speak to match goers at Old Trafford on a Saturday afternoon and they will confirm that Larsson, despite only playing 459 minutes in the Premier League, is indeed a cult hero at the club. What else would you expect from a man that Ronaldinho idolized?
If Larsson’s stay at Manchester United was brief then Olof Mellberg’s at Aston Villa was anything but. The Swedish centre-back turned out 232 times for Villa in the Premier League over the course of a seven-year stay in Birmingham. The Swede managed eight goals in his time at Villa Park and was known for his uncompromising approach to tackling, often leaving a foot in and letting the opposition strikers know that they were in a game.
Notably, during his time with Aston Villa, relegation was never a major issue like it is today with Dean Smith’s men. It’s hard to predict what will happen to Mellberg’s former club this season, although, with Sportal, a company that provides the latest betting tips for the Premier League games that Swedes have the most interest in, a clearer picture of their fortunes in the league this season can be found.
From one Larsson to another, this time around it's Seb Larsson who managed 282 Premier League appearances for three different clubs. The majority of those Premier League appearances came during his time in the northeast at Sunderland, where he ran out 176 times for the Black Cats. The rest of Larsson’s Premier League caps were split between Birmingham and Arsenal, although the Swede only managed three appearances for the Gunners. Few in the history of the Premier League have been able to hit a free-kick like Larsson, the Swede sits tied fourth for all-time free kicks scored in the league, with 11, the number same as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's time at Manchester United was similar to that of Henrik Larsson’s in the sense that it was fleeting, but few will forget the impact he had at Old Trafford. In just 33 Premier League appearances, Ibrahimovic managed 17 goals and five assists. Yes, there were Swedes gone by in the past that managed to play many more times than Ibrahimovic in the Premier League, but the way the striker went about his business was breathtaking. Ever the showman, Zlatan treated the Old Trafford faithful to nights that won’t ever be forgotten in the red half of Manchester.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that Freddie Ljungberg is Sweden’s most successful ever import to the Premier League. The attacking midfielder won the Premier League twice with Arsenal and was part of the famous invincibles side of the 2003/2004 season, tellingly, appearing 30 times for Arsene Wenger’s team. Ljungberg would spend eight years at Arsenal, recording 216 appearances and scoring 46 goals, as well as assisting a further 32.
When the time came to leave the Emirates, Ljungberg headed across London to West Ham where he recorded another 25 appearances, scoring just two goals and assisting four times before cutting his contract short and moving to the MLS.
It was a truly glittering career that ensured Ljungberg will long be remembered by the red side of North London.
Each of the players mentioned impacted the Premier League in their own way and now it's up to the next generation to do the same, but they certainly have big shoes to fill.