Scandinavia. Famed for its quality of life and home to the Vikings, ABBA and IKEA amongst other notable exports, the northern European region has also produced their fair share of supremely talented footballers.
The Premier League has played host to some of the very best Nordics to emerge in recent years, and we’ve decided to compile our dream XI of super Scandinavians to have showcased their talents in English football.
Here is the Football Faithful’s all-time Scandinavian XI…
Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel – Denmark
Scandinavia may have produced some quality shot-stoppers over the years, but this was perhaps the easiest inclusion in our side.
The Manchester United legend is regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time, whilst many believe the ‘Great Dane’ to be the finest number one the Premier League has ever seen.
Signed for a bargain fee of just £505,000 from Brondby in 1991, Schmeichel would go on to form the last line of defence for the most dominant side of the Premier League era, winning five league titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League amongst his vast collection of silverware.
He would captain Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to that Champions League winning success in 1999, completing a historic treble season in the process. The only goalkeeper to have been named as Premier League Player of the Season, Schmeichel would leave for Sporting Lisbon after 398 appearances in all competitions for the Old Trafford side, later returning for brief spells at both Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Right-back: Olof Mellberg – Sweden
Ask any scientist to create an archetypal Scandinavian man, and they’d probably produce Olof Mellberg from their lab.
Fair haired and rugged in appearance, Mellberg was a ferocious competitor and would marshal the backline at Aston Villa for seven seasons, becoming a firm fan’s favourite and enjoying a stint as club captain.
Comfortable both at right-back and centrally, the Swede would operate with an uncompromising style, rarely being beaten in duels either aerially or on the ground.
He would make 260 appearances for Villa and score eight goals before leaving for Juventus, whilst he is also amongst the most capped players in the history of the Swedish national team with 117 appearances.
Centre-back: Sami Hyypia – Finland
A player often overlooked in conversations of the Premier League’s best centre-backs, but a towering presence who would form a formidable part of the Liverpool defence for a decade.
Signed as an unknown quantity from Dutch side Willem II, Hyypia’s presence would held solve a previously leaky defence at Anfield as he quickly established himself as one of the finest defenders in English football.
The Finland international would help Gerard Houllier’s side to a cup treble: the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup, before adding both the Super Cup and Community Shield to his growing collection of silverware and enjoying a brief stint as club captain.
Champions League and a second FA Cup triumph would come following Rafael Benitez’s arrival as manager, Hyypia making 464 appearances for the club before finishing his career with a two season stay at Bayer Leverkusen.
Centre-back: Daniel Agger – Denmark
Another bargain buy picked up by Liverpool, Agger would arrive from Brondy for a fee of £6m, the young defender quickly demonstrating his talents and becoming a popular figure on Merseyside.
An elegant centre-back capable of playing out from the back or stepping into midfield, Agger’s cultured left foot would give the Reds defence balance for much of his 232 appearances for the club in all competitions.
He would help Rafael Benitez’s side to the final of the Champions League in 2007, scoring in the semi-final victory over Chelsea, though defeat to AC Milan in Athens would end his hopes of winning Europe’s biggest prize and he would lift just a solitary Community Shield and League Cup over eight seasons in English football.
Injuries would decimate a large part of his career and he would retire aged just 31-years-old, though he is remembered fondly and was a fine defender at his peak.
Left-back: John Arne Riise – Norway
Some players can hit a football very, very hard and John Arne Riise was certainly one of them.
The Norwegian would sign for Liverpool from Monaco in 2001 and make an instant impact, scoring on his debut as Bayern Munich were defeated in the UEFA Super Cup.
Throughout the course of his debut season at the club he would establish himself as a firm fan’s favourite, not least for his ability to score absolute thunderb*stards at any given opportunity.
Amongst his net-bursting efforts included a Merseyside derby goal at Goodison Park and one of the greatest free-kicks in Premier League history against Manchester United, his sledgehammer of a left boot earning him cult status on the Kop and earning him a highlight reel of spectacular efforts.
Comfortable at left-back or further forward, he would make 348 appearances for the club in all competitions and win the Champions League and FA Cup amongst his honours, whilst he is also the most capped player in the history of the Norway national team with 110 appearances.
Defensive midfield: Thomas Gravesen – Denmark
Gravesen would be a snarling midfield presence during two spells as an Everton player, a throwback enforcer who could also bring a touch of class to proceedings.
The Dane would become a cult hero on the blue half of Merseyside after signing from Hamburg in 2000, earning the nickname ‘Mad Dog’ for his combative displays at the heart of the side.
After leaving Goodison Park in a cut-price deal for Real Madrid, he would return from a short stint amongst the Galacticos to join Celtic, before enjoying a brief second spell at Everton on loan in 2007/08.
The maverick hardman would head to the bright lights of Las Vegas following his retirement, where he has reportedly made a fortune of around £100m after some shrewd investments and success in playing poker, living lavishly with his model girlfriend.
It’s a hard life.
Midfield: Freddie Ljungberg – Sweden
Tucked slightly inside from his usual right-midfield role in former Arsenal star Ljungberg, the former Sweden international forming part of one of the greatest sides the Premier League has ever seen.
Arriving from Halmstad in his homeland, Ljungberg would prove a smart acquisition, scoring on his debut against Manchester United before establishing himself as a key figure for the north London side.
An intelligent forward-thinking player who would ghost into dangerous areas, Ljungberg would produce some of the best football seen in English football as part of an attacking contingent including Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires.
Over nine seasons for the club Ljungberg would make 325 appearances and score 72 goals, winning three FA Cups and two Premier League titles, the second of which was part of the club’s famed unbeaten season.
His finest season would perhaps come two seasons earlier, however, the midfielder scoring 17 goals in all competitions as Arsenal won a domestic double, being named as Premier League Player of the Season and scoring a stunning goal against Chelsea in that year’s FA Cup final success.
He would later enjoy a short stint with West Ham before leaving the Premier League for MLS.
Midfield: Christian Eriksen – Denmark
Having come through the conveyor belt of talent at Dutch side Ajax, Eriksen would be handed an opportunity in English football with a £11m move to Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
The move would prove to be one of the best pieces of business the north London side have conducted in recent years, Eriksen being named as Spurs’ Player of the Year following an impressive debut season in the Premier League.
A technically gifted ‘number 10’ who is capable of drifting across the midfield, the Dane’s vision and delivery would see him become one of the best creative talents in England’s top flight, becoming the first player since David Beckham to register 10+ assists in four consecutive seasons.
A four-time winner of Danish football’s Player of the Year award, Eriksen would score 69 goals in 305 appearances in all competitions for Tottenham, helping the club to a maiden Champions League final in 2019.
After six-and-a-half seasons without silverware, however, he would decide on a new challenge, joining Inter Milan in the 2020 January transfer window.
Forward: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Norway
Long before his position in the Manchester United dugout, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was regarded amongst the greatest footballers Norway has ever produced and amongst the most ruthless finishers in the Premier League.
Signed in a bargain £1.5m deal from Molde, Solskjaer would quickly establish himself amongst Sir Alex Ferguson’s attacking options at Old Trafford, earning the nickname of the ‘Baby-faced Assassin’ for his boyish looks and ice-cold temperament in front of goal.
Solskajer would spend over a decade at the club and score 126 goals in 366 appearances, developing a reputation as a ‘super-sub’ for his ability to score when coming off the bench and winning six league titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League amongst his extensive collection of major honours.
It would that latter triumph that would prove to be the crowning moment of his career, however, the forward coming off the bench in typical fashion to score a dramatic stoppage-time winner against Bayern Munich, crowning United as champions of Europe for a second time and sealing treble success during a historic season in 1999.
Forward: John Carew – Norway
Zlatan Ibrahimovic would once declare that whatever John Carew could do with a football, he could do with an orange, which even for Zlatan’s outlandish comments was a harsh reflection on a player who would prove to be a thorn in the side of many a Premier League defence.
The hulking Carew would arrive in the Premier League after winning league titles in both Spain and France, in addition to reaching the Champions League final with Valencia, joining Aston Villa from Lyon in a swap deal for Milan Baros.
It would prove to be a smart acquisition from Martin O’Neill at Villa Park, Carew reaching double figures for Premier League goals in each of his first three full seasons in the Midlands and providing the focal point for an exciting Villa side.
An imposing figure, Carew would prove a popular figure at the club, helping the side qualify for Europe and memorably scoring twice in a 5-1 thrashing of local rivals Birmingham City.
After 48 goals in all competitions he would depart for Stoke City, later spending a season in the Championship with West Ham before his retirement in 2013.
Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden
Speaking of Zlatan…
For a long time it was argued that Ibrahimovic could not cut it against England’s finest, despite enjoying a career of huge success at some of the leading clubs on the continent.
After winning numerous league titles in Holland, Italy, Spain and France, Zlatan would make the move to the Premier League to reunite with former Inter manager Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, where despite being well into his thirties proved he could still cut it at the highest level.
He would score the winning goal on debut as the Community Shield was secured at Leicester’s expense, before scoring on his Premier League debut ahead of a prolific debut season at Old Trafford.
Ibrahimovic would score 28 goals in all competitions, including a match-winning brace as United beat Southampton in the League Cup final. Named on the shortlist for the Player of the Year award, his season would be curtailed by a career-threatening injury in April, though his teammates would go on to win the Europa League to add further silverware to his extensive trophy cabinet.
The forward would return briefly before heading to MLS and whilst his time in England was brief and perhaps past his peak, he demonstrated some of the brilliance that made him one of the finest footballers of a generation.