Larsson heads for home after the perfect finishing touch

Few men have done as much for Barcelona, or Celtic, in an entire career as Henrik Larsson achieved in a little over half an hour as a decisive substitute at the Stade de France on Wednesday evening. The bare statistics tell the tale: 33 minutes of action; two assists for goals; a single yellow card; and a victory that took the European Cup to Catalunya for only the second time and, with it, automatic Champions' League qualification for his Scottish former club.

It was some way of saying adios to top-level club football before retreating to complete an exceptional career with his home-town side Helsingborg.

No wonder the 34-year-old Swedish striker was close to tears in the aftermath of last week's extraordinary events in Paris where his introduction by Frank Rijkaard as an orthodox, but mobile, centre-forward proved a masterstroke.

Until then, for all of Barcelona's possession, Ronaldinho's bewitching trickery and Samuel Eto'o's fleet-footed threat, Arsenal had stood firm in defence of their slim advantage. But his arrival changed everything.

The following day, after ending English hopes of triumph, he spoke of his joy at receiving an honorary MBE for services to British football a week earlier. The news was leaked with such timing that it reeked of an irony that can only have been intended by a Spurs supporter born in Scotland, where Larsson scored 242 goals in 315 appearances and seven years with Celtic before his departure in 2004.

Yet on Wednesday it was Larsson's ability to play with his back to goal, rather than his eye for it, that paved the way for the passes that allowed Eto'o and Juliano Belletti to fire in shots that beat Manuel Almunia at his near post in front of the glorious blue-and-red inferno that was created by the Spanish supporters.

For Larsson, it was a perfect send-off before a return to a quieter life in the southern Swedish outpost that lies just two miles across the Strait of Oeresund from Hamlet's Elsinore. He has signed to play on for a further 18 months and to spend more time with his family.

"I'm almost 35," he said. "I've got two kids and they need to understand how we live in Sweden. My house there is finished and we need to go back there to live now. Also, I still want to play football. I feel that I haven't played as much as I would really love to play because of the many great players at Barcelona. I think I have at least one or two more years of playing at a decent level before I have to stop - and I would like to do that playing for 90 minutes each week."

So, after the World Cup finals in Germany, where Larsson will be an important member of Lars Lagerback's Swedish squad and could inflict damage on England's cause when they meet in Cologne on 20 June, there will be no return to the Nou Camp, where he has enjoyed sustained success in the last two years, albeit mostly as a substitute and squad man. "Whatever happens, that was a fantastic way for me to end my Barcelona career," he said. "It was a very tough match and the whole team deserve credit for that win.

"For me, it was unbelievable. I have had a fantastic experience in my two years with Barcelona, winning two league titles and now this. Honestly, it has been amazing. But it was not easy at all against Arsenal.

"When I came on, Frank Rijkaard's instructions to me were to stay central, but to move a lot and to try and open up their defence and to win the game. Well, I guess we succeeded!"

The final word: Lehmann raises World Cup alarm

The ideal thing would have been to wait a few seconds. If I'd done that, I could have allowed the goal and eventually given a yellow card.

Referee Terje Hauge on the Jens Lehmann sending-off

I hope he has learned from it and will not do the same during the World Cup. I was joking during the game saying at least Jens cannot get injured now.

Olivier Bierhoff, German team manager, on Lehmann

Please no new debate about who should be Germany goalkeeper.

Thomas Schaaf, the Werder Bremen coach

Jens is mentally strong enough to deal with this. It's psychological nonsense if you think that something like that will repeat itself. It's a one-off.

Oliver Kahn, Germany's No 2 No 1

We never lost hope that we could turn the game around. We had the play, it was just a question of finding the finishing.

Ronaldinho

I never even dreamed of the possibility. When I scored, I thought about those players who aren't usually mentioned in the press.

Juliano Belletti, the matchwinner

A Barça victory in Europe was just a question of time. But now comes the hard part and that is staying at the top.

Johan Cruyff

I hope to stay as long as I can keep running. I couldn't leave the fans, they're like family.

Thierry Henry

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick