Goalkeeper: Magnus Hedman
Swedish goalkeepers have been a surprisingly rare sight in the Premier League – just the four of them. Magnus Hedman is the only one of the quartet to have played regularly, having taken over Coventry City’s No. 1 gloves from club legend Steve Ogrizovic in the late nineties. He became a goalkeeper of leisure later in his career at Chelsea, taking the famously feckless third-choice spot. If you fancy a challenge, try naming the other three Swedish goalkeepers.*
Right-back: Roland Nilsson
Another Swede who joined Coventry City in the late nineties was former Sheffield Wednesday defender Roland Nilsson. One of the few foreigners playing in England come the advent of the Premier League, Nilsson had previously won the League Cup with the Owls in 1991. That final remains the last one to have seen a team outside the top flight lift a major trophy in England. Nilsson was the starting right-back for his country during their incredible run to a third-placed finish at the 1994 World Cup and scored one of Sweden’s penalties in their successful shoot-out victory over Romania in the quarter-finals.
Happy 50th birthday to Roland Nilsson, the classiest full back I’ve seen in a Coventry shirt. Real quality act. pic.twitter.com/v1ytKvjTUT
— Rob Summerfield (@RobSummerfield1) November 27, 2013
Centre-back: Olof Mellberg
There was once a time when Aston Villa had Olof Mellberg and Martin Laursen in defence, and that seems like a long time ago. Along with West Midlands native Zat Knight at the back, the Scandinavian duo helped the club to a sixth-place finish in the 2007/08 season. The magnificently bearded Mellberg (send in your Best Beards XI if you’re bored today) departed at the end of that season and offered replica shirts to all the Villa fans in attendance at his final game as a parting gift. Zlatan Ibrahimovic called Mellberg the best Swedish defender ever and he would certainly warrant a mention in any conversation about Villa’s finest too.
Centre-back: Victor Lindelof
Jose Mourinho may usually prefer 34-year-old centre-backs, but in 2017 at Manchester United he signed a defender in his early twenties. Big things were expected of Victor Lindelof when he arrived in England after a successful spell at Benfica, with United fans hoping Lindelof and Bailly could be the new Dolly and Daisy. It hasn’t quite worked out that way but Lindelof is currently part of a first-choice centre-back pairing with new club captain Harry Maguire. Still only 25, time is on his side and we may yet to have seen the best the Iceman has to offer.
Left-back: Martin Olsson
Relegated four times with three different clubs in the Premier League (Blackburn Rovers, Norwich City and Swansea City), Martin Olsson’s selection here isn’t one for the superstitious. Making his debut for Blackburn in the 2007/08 season, he was playing alongside the likes of Tugay, Brad Friedel and Norwegian hero Morten Gamst Pedersen. Those were happy days at Ewood Park, with the club finishing in seventh that campaign. Unfortunately for Olsson, just as he was becoming a regular in the side, Venky’s, Steve Kean and chicken adverts came along. He remained with Blackburn after their relegation in 2012 but went on to play for the Canaries a year later and the Swans in 2016.
What a game 😍
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) April 2, 2020
Right wing: Niclas Alexandersson
It’s been 18 years since England fans watched the familiar figure of Niclas Alexandersson scoring against Sven’s men at the 2002 World Cup; the Swede equalised with a well-hit strike from outside the box after Danny Mills fluffed his lines (insert your own joke about his punditry career) at the back. Alexandersson was an Everton player at the time of his World Cup exploits, although he is perhaps more fondly remembered at Sheffield Wednesday. He once scored twice for the Owls to help defeat Manchester United in the Red Devils’ otherwise successful 1998/99 season.
Central midfield: Sebastian Larsson
A League Cup winner with Birmingham City in 2011, Sebastian Larsson enjoyed some fine moments in English football. After struggling to break into the Arsenal team, he moved away from London to find regular first-team action in the second city. Birmingham suffered relegation shortly after they vanquished the Gunners in the League Cup final but Larsson stayed in the Premier League with a move north to Sunderland. He scored some memorable goals over the next few seasons, including a superb set-piece strike against Arsenal. Larsson left the Stadium of Light after the club’s Premier League demise in 2017, but continues to play for Sweden as he approaches the 120 cap mark.
Sebastian Larsson pic.twitter.com/dFobMDATKs
— Moh rasheed (@Morasheed10) April 2, 2020
Central midfield: Andreas Svensson
There’s no space for Stefan Schwarz with Andreas Svensson taking the other central midfield spot. Still way ahead of Larsson in terms of international caps, Svensson retired from international football in 2013 as his country’s most capped player. His finest moment in the 148 appearances he made for Sweden came in the 2002 World Cup, scoring a stunning free-kick to take the lead against Argentina and help his country top that tournament’s group of death. In the Premier League, Svensson played for a Southampton side regularly finishing in mid-table and he also helped the Saints reach the 2003 FA Cup final. Solid.
Left wing: Freddie Ljungberg
Ljungberg was part of the Arsenal side that defeated Svensson’s Southampton in that final, one of three FA Cup finals that he won. Despite suffering with injury problems, Ljungberg undoubtedly goes down as one of Arsene Wenger’s greatest signings and a key player in the team that went unbeaten in the 2003/04 campaign. The core of the Invincibles side went agonisingly close to winning the Champions League in 2006, with Ljungberg almost scoring a second goal in the final against Barcelona when Arsenal were one goal ahead. The sexiest of all the Swedes.
Striker: Henrik Larsson
The man who set up the winner for Barcelona in that final, Henrik Larsson also won a Premier League title after a short spell with Manchester United in 2007. He made his name in Britain at Celtic, with an incredible goals-to-game ratio there that was cruelly interrupted by a horrific leg break in 1999. Larsson came back even stronger after his injury and eventually moved to the Nou Camp in 2004. Sorry Johan Elmander, there’s no leaving Henrik Larsson out of this side.
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Obviously there’s no leaving this man out either. Norway’s strikeforce looked good, but what John Carew can do with a football, Zlatan can do with an orange. He’s one of Wenger’s almost signed stars but the Frenchman should have known Zlatan doesn’t do auditions. Ibrahimovic many have left PSG a legend to become a God in Manchester, but even deities can be toppled if you p**s your fans off by investing in a rival club. All of his nonsense aside, he’s been a fantastic player…just ask Ryan Shawcross.
James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs
* Manchester City’s Andreas Isaksson, Swansea’s Kristoffer Nordfeldt and Arsenal’s Rami Shaaban.