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Best Swedish Footballers of All Time

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrik Larsson, Tomas Brolin and more. This article is about the best Swedish footballers of all time.

Swedish football has seen a parade of remarkable talents, leaving a great legacy on the global stage. From the towering presence of Zlatan Ibrahimović to the goal-scoring prowess of Henrik Larsson, Sweden has been home to football legends who’ve etched their names in the sport’s history.

Icons like Tomas Brolin showcased skill and finesse, contributing to the nation’s football narrative. Nils Liedholm and Gunnar Nordahl, with their contributions from the past, laid the foundation for Swedish football’s enduring legacy. As we reflect on the best Swedish footballers of all time, it’s a journey through the moments of brilliance and passion that have defined the beautiful game in this Nordic nation.

Best Swedish footballers of all time

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Who is the best Swedish footballer in history? Join us to find out.

Honorable Mention

  • Kennet Andersson
  • Patrick Andersson
  • Stefan Schwarz
  • Olaf Mellberg
  • Erik Nilsson
  • Kurt Hamrin
  • Martin Dahlin

Here’s our list of best Swedish footballers of all time:

Thomas Ravelli

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Let’s start off our list of best Swedish footballers of all time with a famous goal keeper: Thomas Ravelli. He was born on August 13, 1959. Ravelli Served as the most-capped player for the Sweden national team for an extended period.

Known for his extroverted personality, experience, and intense competitiveness, Ravelli played a vital role in the Sweden national team’s campaigns at the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups, as well as UEFA Euro 1992. Standing out for his tall and slender frame, he was recognized for his leadership on the field and vocal presence, despite possessing an eccentric and temperamental personality.

At the club level, Ravelli had notable stints with Östers IF and IFK Göteborg. During his ten years with Östers IF, he secured three Allsvenskan championships. In 1989, at the age of 29, he made a move to IFK Göteborg. There, he added six more league titles and won his only Swedish Cup.

One of Ravelli’s most memorable moments came during the 1994 World Cup quarter-final clash against Romania. Renowned for his penalty-saving prowess, he notably saved two penalties during the shootout, including one in “sudden death” by Miodrag Belodedici. This outstanding feat contributed to his second-place finish in the race for Goalkeeper of the Year in 1994. France Football also recognized him as the seventh-best player in Europe that year.

Emil Forsberg

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The next in line is one the current best Swedish footballers: Emil Forsberg. Born on 23 October 1991, he is currently shining as an attacking midfielder for MLS club New York Red Bulls. Known for his swift and effective passing, Forsberg is celebrated as a creative playmaker, revered for his knack for creating chances and providing assists. If you ask who is the best Swedish player right now, Forsberg will be a contender. He was one of the best Swedish footballers in 2023.

In 2021, Forsberg clinched the Guldbollen award, recognizing him as Sweden’s top footballer. His exceptional abilities have also earned him the title of Swedish Midfielder of the Year four times (2016, 2017, 2019, and 2021). A pivotal part of Sweden’s journey in the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals, Forsberg showcased his talents at UEFA Euro 2016 and 2020.

Heading into UEFA Euro 2020, Forsberg made a significant impact, scoring four goals during the tournament. Despite Sweden’s 2–1 loss to Ukraine in the Round of 16, Forsberg’s performance earned him acclaim as one of the standout players. Notably, he became the sole Swedish player to score four goals in a UEFA European Championship.

Emil Forsberg’s honors

Forsberg’s impressive career boasts a list of honors. Beginning with Malmö FF, where he secured Allsvenskan titles in 2013 and 2014. He later moved to RB Leipzig, contributing to their victories in the DFB-Pokal for the seasons 2021–22 and 2022–23, along with the DFL-Supercup in 2023. His individual accolades include Allsvenskan Midfielder of the Year in 2014. Forsberg also was Bundesliga top assist provider for the 2016–17 season. Additionally, he earned a spot in the Bundesliga Team of the Season that year. Emil Forsberg will be remembered as one of best Swedish soccer players of all time.

Anders Svensson

Credit: SkySports

We continue our list of best Swedish footballers ever with a fantastic passer: Anders Svensson. Born on July 17, 1976, he is celebrated for his remarkable contributions as a central midfielder. Known for his exceptional passing, free-kick expertise, and prowess in set-piece situations, Svensson typically operated in a playmaking role on the field.

Throughout his illustrious career, he accumulated 148 caps for the Sweden national team, earning the distinction of being the most capped male player for Sweden, surpassing the previous record held by Thomas Ravelli (143 caps). Svensson retired from international football in 2013.

As a testament to his leadership qualities, Svensson was appointed captain of the Sweden national team on numerous occasions. He also served as captain for clubs such as Southampton and Elfsborg. Notably, Svensson played pivotal roles in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. In 2009, he was honored by being named the captain of the Sweden national team. Anders Svensson holds the distinction of being the eighth-most capped European player in history. He also represented Sweden in three consecutive European Championships, participating in 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Renowned for his proficiency in free-kick taking, Svensson demonstrated this skill during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan. In a memorable moment, he scored a free-kick goal against Argentina, a crucial contribution that played a role in eliminating the opponent in the group stages. His abilities extended to playmaking, as he set up the opening goal for Henrik Larsson against Senegal through an in-swinging corner. Anders Svensson’s legacy and longevity is adored by Swedish fans.

Gunnar Gren

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Our next choice in the best Swedish footballers of all-time list is a classic one: Johan Gunnar Gren. He was born on October 31, 1920, and passed away on November 10, 1991. Gren is best remembered for his impactful playing career with IFK Göteborg and A.C. Milan. There, he showcased exceptional skills and contributed to the success of the teams.

Known for his creativity as a forward, Gren possessed technical skill, vision, tactical intelligence, and remarkable passing ability, establishing himself as a playmaker on the field. He formed an iconic attacking trio known as “Gre-No-Li” alongside Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm, both at A.C. Milan and with the Sweden national team. Gren’s versatility allowed him to play various offensive roles, including as an attacking midfielder, an offensive-minded central midfielder (mezzala), or even as a striker.

Gren represented the Sweden national team between 1940 and 1958, earning 57 caps and scoring 32 goals. His achievements include winning a gold medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics and finishing as the runner-up at the 1958 FIFA World Cup. In recognition of his outstanding performances in 1946, he was awarded the prestigious Guldbollen, given to Sweden’s best footballer of the year.

Considered one of the greatest and most prolific Swedish footballers, Gren’s legacy is commemorated with a statue erected in his honor outside the Gamla Ullevi stadium. His impact on the game, both domestically and internationally, continues to be celebrated.

Read More: Best Players of the 1960s

Freddie Ljungberg

best Swedish footballers
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Let’s continue our list of best Swedish footballers of all time with an Arsenal legend: Fredrik “Freddie” Ljungberg. Born on April 16, 1977, he is renowned for his dynamic playing style and versatility. Primarily a winger, Ljungberg exhibited distinctive qualities that contributed to his success throughout his career.

Ljungberg’s playing style was characterized by his explosive pace, technical proficiency, and intelligent off-the-ball movements. As a winger, he had the ability to take on defenders with flair, utilizing his quick dribbling and precise ball control. His knack for making well-timed runs into the box and his goal-scoring prowess, particularly in crucial moments, made him a significant attacking threat. Ljungberg’s work rate, tenacity, and adaptability allowed him to excel in various offensive roles, providing valuable contributions to his teams.

Ljungberg enjoyed immense success at Arsenal, winning two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. Notably, he scored in two FA Cup finals, including the victorious 2002 final. In England, Ljungberg became widely known as “Freddie,” a nickname that stuck throughout his time in the Premier League. Additionally, during his early days at Arsenal, he earned the moniker “Kid Vicious” due to his distinctive punk hairstyle. He is regarded as one of the best Swedish players in the Premier League history.

Internationally, he represented the Sweden national team for a decade, earning 75 caps. Ljungberg participated in multiple UEFA European Championships (Euro 2000, 2004, and 2008) and FIFA World Cups (2002 and 2006). He assumed the captaincy of the Sweden team in 2006 until his retirement from international football after UEFA Euro 2008.

Tomas Brolin

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If it wasn’t for nasty injuries, he could be on top of our list of best Swedish footballers. One the of the most stylish players from Sweden: Tomas Brolin. Born on November 29, 1969, he is celebrated for technical brilliance, and dynamic style of play.

Brolin played as a forward or attacking midfielder. His club career featured a triumphant spell with A.C. Parma in the early 1990s, where he achieved significant success. He secured several honors with Parma, including the 1992 Coppa Italia, the 1993 Cup Winners’ Cup, the 1993 UEFA Super Cup, and the 1995 UEFA Cup. His football journey spanned various clubs, including Näsvikens IK, GIF Sundsvall, IFK Norrköping, Leeds, FC Zürich, Crystal Palace, and Hudiksvall ABK, covering the period from 1984 to 1998.

On the international stage, Brolin represented Sweden from 1990 to 1995, earning 47 caps and scoring 27 goals. Notably, he played a crucial role in Sweden’s historic third-place finish at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Brolin was also part of the Sweden squads in the 1990 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 1992, and the 1992 Summer Olympics. Recognizing his outstanding contributions, he received the Guldbollen, awarded to Sweden’s best footballer of the year, in 1990 and 1994.

Known for his dynamic and energetic playing style, Brolin was a technically gifted footballer considered world-class during his prime. His exceptional dribbling skills, precise passing, and also his powerful shots on goal made him a versatile and valuable asset on the field. Additionally, Brolin’s tactical intelligence allowed him to adapt to various positions, including offensive-midfield playmaker, striker, winger, central midfielder, and deep-lying forward.

Injury and early retirement

In November 1994, just days before his 25th birthday, Brolin suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for five months. Following his return, he faced challenges with form, injury, and weight issues, ultimately leading to his retirement from professional football at the age of 28. Despite the premature end to his playing career, Tomas Brolin remains a revered figure in Sweden history. He is one of the best Swedish soccer players ever and one of the best footballers of his time.

Read More: Best Players of the 1990s

Gunnar Nordahl

best Swedish footballers
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Our list of best Swedish fooballers of all time could not be complete without the legendry Gunnar Nordahl. Born on October 19, 1921, he was renowned for his prolific goal-scoring abilities and physical strength. His impactful career, particularly at AC Milan from 1949 to 1956, solidified his status as one of the greatest strikers in football history.

During his time at AC Milan, Nordahl achieved remarkable success. He won the Scudetto twice and earned the title of pluricapocannoniere. His five top scorer (Capocannonieri) awards remain unmatched, making him the record-holder for this achievement in the history of the Italian championship. Nordahl is also AC Milan’s all-time leading goal-scorer. Additionally, he still holds the record for goals per appearance in Italy. He was known by various nicknames in Italy: “Il Cannoniere” (The prime gunner), “Il Pompiere” (The fireman), and “Il Bisonte” (The Bison).

On the international stage, Nordahl represented the Sweden national team from 1942 to 1948, earning 33 caps and scoring 43 goals. He played a pivotal role in Sweden’s success at the 1948 Summer Olympics. There, he emerged as the joint top scorer alongside Denmark’s John Hansen, contributing to Sweden’s gold medal triumph.

Nordahl is considered one of the greatest Swedish footballers of all-time and among the best strikers ever. FourFourTwo magazine included him in its 2017 list of the 100 greatest players of all time, ranking him at the 54th position.

Nils Liedholm

We reach the top 3 in our list of best Swedish footballers of all time. Our choice for the third spot is Nils Liedholm. He was born on October 8, 1922 and passed away on November 5, 2007. Affectionately known as “Il Barone” (The Baron) in Italy, Liedholm is one of the best Swedish footballers in Serie A history.

Liedholm played a pivotal role in Sweden’s triumph at the 1948 Olympic tournament, contributing to the team’s gold medal. At the 1958 World Cup, he served as the captain of the Sweden national team. Liedholm, then almost 36 years old, led his country to the final, held in Sweden. Although the team faced a formidable Brazil side featuring Didi and a 17-year-old Pelé, Liedholm scored the opening goal of the final. As for now, he is the oldest player to score in a World Cup Final. Despite his efforts, Brazil emerged victorious with a 5–2 win.

Known for his intelligence, technical prowess, and elegant style of play, Liedholm operated as an offensive playmaker with exceptional passing range. He is celebrated as one of the best players in Serie A history. Regarded as one of the best players of the post-war era, Liedholm received widespread recognition for his contributions to the sport.

Nils Liedholm was voted the best Swedish player of the millennium by readers of Aftonbladet, Sweden’s largest newspaper, at the end of the 20th century. He is adored by Milan’s fans as one their best players ever.

Read More: Best Players of the 1950s

Henrik Larsson

best Swedish footballers
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He should be on any list of greatest Swedish footballer: Henrik Larsson. He was born on September 20, 1971. Larsson’s illustrious career began at Högaborgs BK before a pivotal move to Helsingborg IF in 1992. There, his partnership contributed to promotion to Allsvenskan. His venture into the Dutch Eredivisie with Feyenoord resulted in two KNVB Cups and marked his emergence on the international stage during Sweden’s 1994 FIFA World Cup success.

Larsson’s iconic status, however, flourished in Scottish football. Signed by Celtic in 1997, he played a pivotal role in ending the club’s decade-long wait for a league title. Despite a setback with a broken leg in 1999, Larsson’s resilience was evident as he scored 53 goals in the 2000–01 season, earning him the European Golden Shoe.

During his seven-year tenure at Celtic, Larsson secured four league titles and propelled the team to the 2003 UEFA Cup Final. In that match, his brace in extra time narrowly fell short against Porto. Affectionately known as “The King of Kings” by Celtic fans, he left a great legacy with 242 goals in 313 matches. Larsson’s influence continued at Barcelona. There, he won two league titles and the 2005–06 UEFA Champions League.

On the international stage, he represented Sweden in three FIFA World Cups and three UEFA European Championships, earning a bronze medal in 1994. With 37 goals in 106 matches, he remains second in Sweden’s all-time goalscoring table. Larsson’s individual honors include two Golden Ball awards. Additionally, he was named the Greatest Swedish Footballer of the Last 50 Years in the UEFA Jubilee Awards in 2003. Notably, he holds the record for the all-time leading goalscorer in the UEFA Europa League/UEFA Cup.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

best Swedish footballers
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Who else? Zlatan Ibrahimović top our list of best Swedish fooballers of all-time. Born on October 3, 1981, he is celebrated for his acrobatic style, technical prowess, and physical dominance as a striker. Widely considered one of the greatest in his position, he boasts a decorated career with 34 trophies, scoring over 570 goals, including 500 at the club level, spanning four decades.

Ibrahimović’s journey began at Malmö FF in 1999, and he soon gained prominence, earning a move to Ajax in 2001. His career saw stints with renowned clubs such as Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, and LA Galaxy. Notably, he won multiple league titles, including Serie A, Laliga and Ligue 1. Additionally, he clinched his first European honor with Manchester United.

Ibrahimović earned 100 or more caps for the Swedish national team over a remarkable 20-year span. With 62 goals, he holds the record as Sweden’s all-time leading goalscorer. He represented Sweden in multiple FIFA World Cups and UEFA European Championships.

Ibrahimović’s individual accolades include the Guldbollen (Swedish Golden Ball) 12 times, FIFA Puskás Award in 2013 for a spectacular bicycle kick against England, and recognition in FIFA FIFPro World XI and UEFA Team of the Year. Despite never winning the UEFA Champions League, he has been acknowledged as one of the best players not to achieve this feat. In December 2014, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter ranked Lucas Bergvall as the second-greatest Swedish sportsperson ever, following tennis player Björn Borg.

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Alex Lundy
Alex Lundy
A lifelong football fan, Alex loves to dabble in its history, especially FIFA World Cup. But his love for sports doesn't end at football since he loves watching NBA and Formula1 too. Reading novels and watching classic films takes the rest of his time.
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