Henrik Larsson arrived at Celtic Park in 1997 without too much of a fanfair. He left seven years later, heralded as one of the club’s greatest ever players. He was the Super Swede, the Magnificent Seven, the King of Kings. He was Henrik Larsson of Celtic, and supporters loved him.
The Swedish striker joined Celtic from Feyenoord, signed by his former manager, Wim Jansen, following protracted contract difficulties with the Dutch club. It’s well-documented that one of his first touches as a Celtic player was to set up Chic Charnley to score the winning goal for Hibernian in a 2-1 at Easter Road, yet he would go on to score 242 goals in 315 appearances, making him Celtic’s third top goalscorer of all time, only behind Bobby Lennox and Jimmy McGrory.
He had few detractors, though those who were and who dismissed his scoring record because it was only in Scottish football, found their flimsy argument undermined by Larsson’s subsequent achievements at Barcelona and Manchester United, as well as his contribution to Sweden on the international stage. Anyone who knew anything about football always knew that Henrik Larsson was a world-class talent.
Henrik Larsson was great for Celtic but, as he has acknowledged himself, Celtic was good for him.
‘This is my club,’ he said. ‘I’ve played with a few teams, but I made myself as a player at Celtic. I’ll be eternally grateful to Celtic because they took a chance on me when other clubs didn’t. It was here where I became recognised as a player. It was here that I went on to play in European Championships and World Cups with Sweden. This is a club that believed in me and I’ll always remember that.’
PRELUDE TO PARADISE Henrik Larsson began his football carer in 1988 at the age of 17 when he signed for Swedish team Hogaborg BK. After four years there, he then moved to Helsingborg, where he displayed his talent, scoring 50 goals in 56 appearances. It was an impressive return in just over a year and it wasn't long before Dutch club Feyenoord came calling and he moved to Holland in 1993. It took him a while to settle into his new environment, though his scoring record continued to rise over the course of the next four years. However, in 1997 he indicated to the club that he wanted to leave. Celtic, now managed by Wim Jansen, who had been technical director at Feyenoord when they signed the player, moved to buy him and after a protracted legal wrangle, he moved to Paradise in July 1997 for what would prove to be a bargain fee of £650,000.
"I’ll be eternally grateful to Celtic because they took a chance on me when other clubs didn’t."
DEBUT BHOY Henrik’s Celtic debut is well-known for being less than auspicious. Coming on as a substitute against Hibernian at Easter Road, he inadvertently gave possession away, allowing Chic Charnley to score what would prove to be the winner. However, it was to be one of the few ‘mistakes’ the Swedish striker would make over the next seven years. He scored his first goal for the club in the very next match – a 7-0 win over Berwick Rangers in the League Cup, and in that first season he would end up with 19 goals and two winner’s medals. He scored one of the goals in the 3-0 League Cup final victory over Dundee United while, more importantly, he helped Celtic win their first league title in a decade and ‘stopping the 10’. His goal against St Johnstone on the final day of the season settled nerves (a little!) at Celtic Park, before Harald Brattbakk’s second-half strike sealed the win and the title.
Overall, Henrik would make 315 appearances for the Hoops, scoring an incredible 242 goals.
HIGHLIGHTS The list of Henrik's achievements at Celtic could go on forever. He won four SPL titles, two League Cups, two Scottish Cups, and he was the top goal scorer in the Scottish Premier League in five out of six seasons. In season 2000/01, Martin O'Neill’s first in charge, Henrik had one of his most successful seasons at the club. He scored an incredible 35 league goals in 38 league matches, with an overall total of 53 goals in the season, helping Celtic win the treble. On a personal level, he also won the European Golden Boot as the continent’s top scorer. Celtic began to dominate Scottish football and re-establish themselves as a European force and, not surprisingly, their Super Swede was at the heart of the success. His goals in the Road To Seville were absolutely vital, which he produced a stunning performance in the 2003 UEFA Cup final, scoring two goals. Overall, Henrik would make 315 appearances for the Hoops, scoring an incredible 242 goals.
BOWING OUT Henrik Larsson left Celtic in the summer of 2004, after seven sensational years at the club. His final game at Paradise was a league clash against Dundee United, where naturally he scored both goals to give Celtic a 2-1 victory. At the end of the game there were tears on the pitch and in the stands on what was a very emotional day. In his last competitive appearance for the Hoops, the Super Swede scored another two goals to help Celtic beat Dunfermline and win the Scottish Cup. There was to be one final bow at Paradise – a farewell game against Sevilla – when the Celtic support said thank you and goodbye to the Magnificent Seven.
In his last competitive appearance, the Super Swede scored another two goals to help Celtic beat Dunfermline and win the Scottish Cup.
HOMAGE TO CATALONIA After seven great years at Celtic, Henrik moved on to pastures new, signing for Catalan giants Barcelona. The Celtic support had always known that he was a world-class performer, and he illustrated that during his time at the Nou Camp, helping Barca win two La Liga titles, and also the UEFA Champions League in 2006. He came on as a substitute and helped set up both of Barcelona’s goals as they came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1. During his first season in Catalonia, he also returned to Celtic Park when Barca were drawn against Celtic, and he scored one of Barca’s goals in a 3-1 win at Paradise. He returned to Sweden and Helsingborgs in 2006, and during that time he had a loan spell with Manchester United, playing a part in their title triumph in 2007.
GOLDEN BOOT BHOY When Henrik Larsson returned to first-team action following his leg break in 1999, he began scoring and couldn’t stop. Season 2000/01 saw Martin O’Neill in charge and Celtic swept to the treble. Henrik scored a total of 53 goals in that campaign, including 35 in the league, a tally which saw him win the Golden Boot Award as Europe’s top goalscorer. It was a fitting honour for a great player.
315 CELTIC CAREER APPEARANCES League: 221, Scottish Cup: 25, League Cup: 11, Europe: 58
242 CELTIC CAREER GOALS League: 174, Scottish Cup: 23, League Cup: 10, Europe: 35
8 CELTIC CAREER MAJOR HONOURS League: 4, Scottish Cup: 2, League Cup: 2
Date of Birth
20 September 1971
1-2 v Hibernian (A) on 3 Aug 1997
Signed For Celtic
1 July 1997
"This is a club that believed in me and I’ll always remember that."