Final heroics will not stop Larsson's homecoming
Friday 19 May 2006
Henrik Larsson's introduction made the decisive difference in winning the European Cup for Barcelona but the Swedish striker remained adamant after the match that he will quit the club and return home this summer.
"I'm almost 35," Larsson said. "I've got kids and they need to understand how we live in Sweden." Larsson has resisted concerted pressure from the Barça coach Frank Rijkaard to remain in Spain and has agreed an 18-month contract with his hometown club Helsingborg despite interest from a number of Premiership clubs who had been made aware of his availability.
Larsson became the point of the attack and provided the astute passes for both Barça's goals, up-staging Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry, once he came on after the hour with his side chasing the game. "Frank Rijkaard's instructions were to stay central and move and try to win it," he said.
Larsson, however, admitted that he has also grown frustrated by his lack of opportunities at Barça in his two years at the club. "I want to play football," he said. "I feel I haven't played as much as I would love to because of the great players we have at Barcelona. I maybe have one or two more years playing at a decent level and I want to do that playing for 90 minutes," he said.
Barcelona's victory has provided a boost for Larsson's former club, Celtic. They will now go automatically into the group stages of next season's Champions' League meaning they will be guaranteed £10m in extra revenue. If Arsenal had won the trophy, however, Celtic would have faced a qualifier instead.
Larsson, who joined Celtic in 1997 and scored 242 goals in 315 games in his seven years at the club, said he had not been aware of the significance of the result. "I didn't know that," he said. "Celtic is always a club in my heart - so I am happy that we could both enjoy the evening, that we won and that they could go through."
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