By Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s Sebastian Larsson has moved home to swap relegation battles in England for a title run with table-topping Stockholm side AIK after spending more than half his life away.
The 33-year-old, who played a key role for his country at this year’s World Cup where they lost to England in the quarter-finals, is relishing the chance to get his hands on some silverware while he still can.
“I wanted to come home while I can contribute to something very inspiring and be up there and really be fighting for something,” he told Reuters in an interview at AIK’s Karlberg training ground.
Unlike many of his counterparts, Larsson never played in the Swedish top flight before moving abroad, bypassing the Allsvenskan to join Arsenal as a callow teenager.
He earned his reputation as a versatile but tough competitor in over 400 games in England’s top two tiers with Arsenal, Birmingham City, Sunderland and Hull City and hopes to help his new club, who finished second last season, with that experience.
“Obviously it’s a completely different situation when we’re aiming to win the league compared to battling to stay up … but you have to be humble,” Larsson said, adding that he is still finding his feet in his new surroundings.
“Just because you’re leading the league doesn’t mean you can relax. You have to be there every game – every team wants to beat the league leaders, and especially a big club like AIK.”
The Stockholm side, who haven’t won the Allsvenskan since 2009, are top of the table with city rivals Hammarby, with Larsson having signed for them before the World Cup in June.
He anchored Sweden’s midfield at the World Cup in Russia and, despite his performances attracting attention from several clubs, he was never tempted to change his mind about moving home.
“It could have opened doors, absolutely, it’s so big with these championships (finals), but I felt secure with the decision we made and that’s why we took it before the World Cup,” he said.
The affable midfielder said he would continue to follow England’s top two divisions after his move home, and is tipping Manchester City to retain the title they won last term.
“I love English football. I am eternally grateful for the time I had there, it’s such a big part of my life,” he said.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)