The Premier League has been in existence now for 18 years, and in that time we have seen many Scandinavian players come and go.
Some stank our respective Meccas out with their dreadful excuse for top flight football. But here are ten shining, virtuous examples of what a true footballer does. Truly, the Viking blood is strong in these…
(Listed in no particular order)
1. Peter Schmeichel (DENMARK)
Man Utd 1991-1999, Aston Villa 2001-2002, Man City 2002-2003
He made stunning saves, he put the fear of god in his own defence, he frustrated the world’s finest strikers, he scored goals, he won Euro 92 with his national team, and he won all the domestic honours there are to win in Denmark and England.
There isn’t much you can say about Schmeichel, but the statistics speak volumes with 42% of his games with Manchester United (over eight years) resulting in clean sheets.
Schmeichel could easily have a DVD of great saves, and will forever be rightly lauded as Manchester United’s best goalmouth guardian bar none.
2. Fredrik Ljungberg (SWEDEN)
Arsenal 1998-2007, West Ham Utd 2007-2008
If we swung that way here on FTT, Freddie Ljungberg would have several galleries all to himself, but unfortunately for Arsenal’s luckless opponents he played as good as he looks, unleashing a nine-year reign of terror on opposing midfields.
He got off to a flyer, scoring on his debut (as a sub) in a 3-0 win over Manchester United in September 1998. Ljungberg would experience his best time at Arsenal between 2001 and 2005, which saw The Gunners lift two Premier League trophies, three FA Cups with his contributions from the wing.
3. Sami Hyypia (FINLAND)
At just £2.6m, it would not be unreasonable to think of Hyypia as “bargain of the <insert appropriate timescale>”, at least if you are of a red disposition. The boyhood Liverpool fan enjoyed his ten years at Anfield, during which time the Reds twice came within grasping distance of the league title.
He was influential in forming a tougher defence than demonstrated in the 1990s, when Liverpool were occasionally mocked as being “Spice-Boys” with flash, but little substance. Hyypia forged partnerships at the back with Stephane Henchoz (immediately upon arrival) and later Jamie Carragher.
This was done to great effect, with a famous cup treble completed in 2001, and an unforgettable Champions League win in 2005.
4. Ole Gunnar Solskjær (NORWAY)
Man Utd 1996-2007
The “baby faced assassin” began life modestly with Clausenengen as a 17-year old, but what was far from modest was his strike rate for the club, which stood at 106% by the time he left for Molde FK.
After spending just one full season at Molde (during which he scored 20 of his 31 goals for the club), Solskjær joined Manchester United.
There are few players who have set the club alight as Solskjær did, and he had a knack for scoring at the best possible time – one example being the winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League with the last kick of the game.
His strikes always demonstrated flair and precision finishing, impressing the most sceptical of fans time after time.
5. Jussi Jääskeläinen (FINLAND)
Another goalkeeper, and one who has again shown great poise, athleticism and coolness under pressure for many years, staying loyal to a club who have seen the best and worst of times under his tenure as first choice custodian.
His prowess has helped Bolton become mainstays in the Premier League who have unprecedentedly dabbled with the UEFA Cup in recent years. After 426 appearances to date for the club, Jääskeläinen is well placed to take a deserved spot in the Bolton hall of fame.
6. Thomas Gravesen (DENMARK)
The “Mad Dog” or “The Gravedigger” often lived up to his name with hot-headed performances on the pitch and a deadly tackle. But in the dark days of Walter Smith (during which he signed), Everton needed a leader on the pitch to oil a rusty one-stroke midfield engine.
He will always however, be remembered as the man in the middle of Everton’s astonishing start to the 2004/05 season, forming a cohesive midfield partnership with baldy bonce twin Lee Carsley. His attacking prowess was sometimes a pleasure to behold for long-suffering Everton fans.
They certainly missed him when his departure to Real Madrid saw Everton’s form dive horrifically, almost costing them a Champions League spot
7. John Arne Riise (NORWAY)
Forget the own goal against Chelsea, this man was mustard for the greater part of seven years, both as a defender and a winger. He scored on his debut in the 2001 Super-Cup against European champions Bayern Munich.
His indomitable and incorrigible spirit have seen Liverpool through leaky spells at the back, and yet his goalscoring prowess was (for a defender) impressive, particularly early in his career. Ultimately he is held in high regard by nearly all Liverpool fans who actually go to the game.
8. Olof Mellberg (SWEDEN)
Aston Villa 2001-2008
The weirdy beardy centre-back spent seven years at Aston Villa, and although they were generally below par between 2001 and 2008, his staunch defensive abilities frustrated many a team with high expectations.
His strength was particularly apparent in 2003/04, when Villa (hovering around the relegation zone at Christmas) finished 6th in David O’Leary’s first season in charge.
He was nothing if not consistent, and was a rock until his departure for Juventus in 2008 at the age of 30. His departure was certainly reminiscent of a guard of honour from the Villa faithful.
9. Eidur Gudjohnsen (ICELAND)
Chelsea 2000-2006, Tottenham 2010, Stoke City 2010-Present
Gudjohnsen got his first taste of English action with a first division Bolton side in 1998, when his goalscoring prowess helped Bolton reach the promotion playoffs two years running.
He was offloaded to Chelsea due to Bolton’s financial troubles, and forged a potent attacking partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, with Gudjohnsen also able to fall back into midfield or a supporting-striker role.
Gudjohnsen was a vital part of the Abramovich fuelled Chelsea team who romped the 2004/05 Premier League season with a record tally of 95 points. Ultimately, he was unstoppable on his day, and his versatility makes him one of Chelsea’s best utility players for years.
10. Morten Gamst Pedersen (NORWAY)
Pedersen has dynamite in his boots and a dead eye for assists and goals. Although his first season didn’t begin impressively, the 2005 new-year brought a renaissance, with a goal against Cardiff in the FA Cup launching an upturn in form which would yield 8 goals from 27 appearances.
2005/06 would be an even better time for Pedersen when he moved to left-midfield, and showed great industry throughout the season in which Blackburn would be the surprise package, finishing 6th.
He now plies his trade mostly as a centre-attacking midfielder, and the transition from the wing was smooth as silk as it initially surprised teams. Having now signed a contract which will keep him at Ewood Park until 2014 (the start of his testimonial season), Pedersen certainly has the opportunity to become an East Lancs legend.
But who was the best of the best?
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