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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
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

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried