Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Help

Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Is Larsson the best in Britain?
By Tom Fordyce

Henrik Larsson celebrates
Feyenoord: 101 games, 26 goals
Celtic: 254 games, 201 goals
Sweden: 72 games, 24 goals
Henrik Larsson's two goals in the Uefa Cup final may not have been enough to secure Celtic victory, but they underlined once again the man's goal-scoring talents.

With 201 goals for Celtic in the six years since his 650,000 transfer from Feyenoord, he represents one of the best value-for-money signings of the last 25 years.

But how does he compare to the other great strikers in British football? Can he claim to be on a par with more feted forwards like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry?

In terms of the sheer number of goals he has scored, the answer is unequivocal. His goals to games ratio for Celtic stands at 4:5, a remarkable record by any standards.

When Celtic won their first domestic treble in 32 years in 2000-01, Larsson scored a phenomenal 53 goals, earning himself the European Golden Shoe in the process.

He is also capable of scoring the full range of goals - shots from distance, cool close-in finishes and, as Wednesday night showed, thumping headers from any angle.

How does his career league goal-scoring record sit alongside those of the Premiership's best marksmen?

Very well. Larsson has 0.59 goals per league game since he made his debut in Sweden - out-scoring Henry (0.40) by some way, Michael Owen (0.54) by a fraction, and only falling behind Van Nistelrooy (0.60) by the smallest of margins.

So what? I hear you cry.

It may be an exaggeration to say that anyone can score in the Scottish Premier League, but goals certainly come cheaper than south of the border.

Defences are weaker, the big two clubs further ahead of the pack than in England and the style of play more cavalier.

To which there are several counter-arguments, not least of which is the truism that you can only score goals in the league you are playing in.

Henrik Larsson celebrates
Henrik Larsson: 0.59 goals per league game
Michael Owen: 0.54
Thierry Henry: 0.40
Ruud van Nistelrooy: 0.60

In which case we need to compare the records of the same four players on the international stage.

Larsson has 24 goals in 72 games for Sweden. Van Nistelrooy has nine in 21 for Holland, Henry 18 in 48 for France and Owen 20 in 47 for England.

It begins to look less rosy for Larsson. But behind the stats lie a more complicated story.

For a long time Sweden misused him at international level. As with Henry at Juventus, Larsson was not given a central striker's berth for some time.

When he was, the goals came. They also came in big games at the major tournaments - against Bulgaria in the third-place play-off at the 1994 World Cup, two in the win over Nigeria at the 2002 World Cup and one in the golden goal defeat by Senegal later in the same tournament.

But here's another way of looking at it. Would Alex Ferguson have him in his Manchester United side ahead of Van Nistelrooy, or Arsene Wenger pick him ahead of Henry for Arsenal?

You would have to say no. And the same would be true for Gerard Houllier with Owen at Liverpool.

On the other hand, a man like Larsson would be a wonderful addition to United's squad, particularly with their dearth of proven strikers.

And the same is true of both Arsenal (better than Sylvain Wiltord and Kanu) and Liverpool (preferable to Emile Heskey and, for the time being, Milan Baros).

The best in Britain? Not quite. A wonderful talent? Without doubt.

E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs


Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport