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Jari Litmanen – still going strong!

It may come as a surprise to Liverpool fans that their former striker Jari Litmanen is still making an impact as a player.

Finally, 24 years after Limanen made his first team debut for Reipas Lahti in the Finnish Premier League - on May 3, 1987 - he achieved one of his personal goals by winning his first league title in Finland.

Before the 2011 season, Litmanen moved from the relegated team of FC Lahti to HJK Helsinki. At the age of 40 Litmanen helped HJK Helsinki to win their 24th league title which makes HJK the most winning club ever in Finland.

This is his second period at HJK after he played for the club in the 1991 season scoring 16 goals in 27 league games. After spending most of the 1992 season in MyPa he was sold to Ajax Amsterdam during the summer in 1992.

This was the kick off for a very successful and long lasting career for Finland’s best football player ever! He had his peak at Ajax including winning the Champions League in 1995, five Dutch league and three cup titles.

Attacking midfielder

During his time at Ajax he was a key player and considered to be one of the best attacking midfielders in the world. After Ajax he also played for top clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool and minor clubs like Hansa Rostock, Malmö FF, and Fulham.

He even went back to Ajax for a second period but he never reached the heights of performance as during his first period at Ajax.

In my role as a Hannover 96 scout in Scandinavia I went on a three games scouting trip to Finland in summer 2011. Even though Jari Litmanen wasn´t the main reason for going to see HJK play I really hoped that he at least would come on as a substitute.

I knew that he mostly was sitting on the bench but this could be the last chance to see him play on top level. When I saw the line ups for the game HJK-IFK Mariehamn on 30th of July I was disappointed. He and even Teemu Pukki (who later this summer was sold to our Bundesliga rivals from Schalke 04 after scoring three goals against them in the Europe League) were sitting on the bench.

Pukki came on after about 60 minutes of the game but still no Litmanen in sight. But then with only 10 minutes remaining of the game the people around me seemed to have noticed something. Yes, it was time for “Kuningas” (The King) to make his entrance on the pitch.

Standing ovation

Litmanen was welcomed with a standing ovation. After only a few minutes he showed that he still reads the game better than most other players when he found Teemu Pukki with an outstanding no look pass. Unfortunately Pukki missed this great opportunity to score but I was happy. This pass was worth the whole trip to Finland!

Jari Litmanen also played an important role when HJK won the Finnish Cup title. Again he was sitting on the bench in the final against KuPS but he came on after 80 minutes when the score still was 0-0. In the second half of the extra time he scored a spectacular half volley goal which made it 1-0 for HJK.

When the referee blew the whistle for the last time HJK had won the final with 2-1 and Litmanen won his second Finnish Cup title 19 years after he won the first with MyPa in 1992. In the last league game of the season Litmanen was in the starting lineup for the home game against FC Haka.

This was his Finnish League game number 200 and he celebrated it by assisting to three goals in HJK's 5-2 win. Was this his last game?

More than one month after this game he has still not decided - but I hope that he will continue for at least one more season. 

Until then it's worth a look at some of his amazing records. Jari Litmanen, turning 41 in February but still going strong!

JARI LITMANEN

- Capped 137 times for Finland, scoring 32 goals
- The only player who has played an A international game in 4 different decades
- 9 times Finnish football player of the year: 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000
- All time European top scorer for Ajax with 26 goals


Flemming Rossen is a Scandinavian scout for Bundesliga club Hannover 96. He has had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest clubs in Europe, spending time with Hertha Berlin, Koln, Bayern Leverkusen and Grasshoppers. He started his career as a youth coach working for Koln and also for Swedish rivals AIK and Djurgarden.


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