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Jari Litmanen

Jari Litmanen
Complete Name: Jari Olavi Litmanen
Nationality: Finn
Place of Birth: Lahti, Finland
Date of Birth: Feb 20 1971
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 81 kg
National Team: Finland
Current Club: Malmo FF (Sweden)
Position: Forward


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Club career history

Reipas (Finland), HJK (Finland), MyPa (Finland), Ajax (Holland), FC Barcelona (Spain), Liverpool FC (England), Ajax (Holland), FC Lahti (Finland), Hansa Rostock (Germany), Malmö FF (Sweden)


1995 Champions League winner (Ajax)
1996 Champions League top scorer (Ajax)
2004 Dutch League Champions (Ajax)


Jari Olavi Litmanen (born February 20, 1971 in Lahti) is a Finnish footballer, widely considered the country's greatest ever. An icon of Finnish football, he was chosen as the best Finnish player of the last 50 years by the Football Association of Finland in the UEFA Jubilee Awards in 2004. Litmanen also finished 42nd on the Suuret suomalaiset ("Greatest Finns") voting the same year.

Litmanen currently plays for Malmö FF in the Swedish Allsvenskan, and is the captain of the Finnish national team. He has also represented Reipas Lahti, HJK Helsinki, MyPa and FC Lahti in Finland as well as Ajax, Barcelona, Liverpool and Hansa Rostock abroad. Litmanen is a classic playmaker with excellent technique and vision, and has played either as an attacking midfielder or withdrawn forward throughout his career. He became the first Finnish footballing superstar while playing for Ajax in the mid-1990s, but consistent injury troubles have plagued his career in later years.

Litmanen was born into a strong footballing family. His father, Olavi Litmanen, was also a Finnish international and a Reipas player. His mother Liisa also played for Reipas at the women's highest level. Litmanen was a natural sporting talent as a boy, and also played many other sports besides football. He was especially good at ice-hockey, but at the age of 15 he chose football as his main ambition.

Litmanen became a father in November 2005, when his girlfriend Ly Jürgenson gave birth to a son.

Litmanen made his first team debut for Reipas in Finland's top division Mestaruussarja at the age of just 16 in 1987. After four seasons at his home-town club he moved to Finland's biggest club, HJK Helsinki, for the 1991 season and then again to MyPa for the 1992 season. At MyPa he was coached by Harri Kampman, who later became his agent. Litmanen won the Finnish Cup with MyPa before moving abroad in the summer of 1992.

Litmanen had been chased by a host of European clubs, but in the end it was Ajax Amsterdam who bought him. His first season in the Netherlands was spent in Dennis Bergkamp's shadow, but when Bergkamp moved to Inter it was Litmanen who was given the famous number 10 shirt. He scored 26 goals in the 1993–1994 season, becoming the league's top scorer, and leading Ajax to the title.

It was, however, in the UEFA Champions League that Litmanen made his name. He was the leading star of Louis van Gaal's team which reached the final twice in a row. The first time, against AC Milan in 1994–1995, they won. In 1995–1996 Litmanen was the Champions League top scorer with nine goals, and also scored in the final against Juventus, which, however, Ajax lost. He also won the Intercontinental Cup with Ajax in 1995, and came third in the voting for the Ballon d'Or, having finished eight the previous year.

In total Litmanen spent seven years in Amsterdam, winning four Dutch championships and three Dutch Cups. He also became one of the most popular players and a legend at the club, and was given a memorable farewell (together with Danny Blind who was retiring) in his last match at the ArenA in 1999.

As Litmanen's contract with Ajax had expired, he was able to leave the club for free, and was re-united with his old boss van Gaal at FC Barcelona in 1999. His stint with the club was, however, largely plagued by injuries, and when van Gaal was replaced by Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, his chances of playing became even smaller. In the end, Litmanen was given a free transfer by Barcelona in January 2001, and he moved to Liverpool.

Litmanen was hailed as "one of the most exciting signings Liverpool have ever made" by the manager Gérard Houllier upon signing for the club he had supported as a boy. But, once again, injuries and Houllier's inability to fit him into his 4–4–2 formation meant that Litmanen was given little playing time. However, he was a part of the Liverpool team that won the "cup treble" (Worthington Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup) in 2001. Litmanen was again given permission to move clubs for free after he had become frustrated with his situation after the 2001–2002 season.

Litmanen decided to return to Ajax, and was given a hero's welcome with the crowd once again singing his name. He also played quite a good season in 2002–2003, and was one of the key players as Ajax reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Much of the 2003–2004 season, though, was once again spent on the sidelines, and once again, in the spring of 2004, Litmanen was released.

Litmanen's return to Finland was much hyped, and was hailed as "the return of the king". Unusually big crowds of over 10,000 turned up to matches to see their hero – more often than not just to find out that Litmanen wasn't able to play. All in all, his stint at FC Lahti turned out to be a big disappointment for all parties.

Litmanen was then given one more chance to play in one of Europe's top leagues when he was signed by German Bundesliga strugglers Hansa Rostock in January 2005 to help save them from relegation. Rostock's form improved significantly after Litmanen's arrival, and he had the longest run of first-team football in recent memory. In the end, though, Hansa were relegated, which ended Litmanen's stint at the club.

Litmanen joined Malmö FF in July 2005 in a bid to help the Swedes to qualify for the Champions league. This bid, however, failed, and Litmanen himself was injured during the whole of the autumn, only making a few appearances. He is set to continue his career with Malmö in the 2006 season.

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