Striker Jordan Larsson says it would be a “dream” to play for Celtic, the club at which his father Henrik became an icon, despite remaining focussed on firing current team Spartak Moscow to championship glory and into Europe.
“For me my whole life has been about proving I’m a good player, that I’m my own person you know.”
For Jordan Larsson, Spartak Moscow’s 23-year-old forward, football has been as much about establishing himself as a person and a player as it has been separating public opinion on him from that of his free-scoring father Henrik.
Larsson Sr became a legend at Celtic, winning four Scottish league titles, before going on to win La Liga and Champions League winners medals at Barcelona and enjoying a whistle-stop period on loan at Manchester United, where he won the Premier League.
Larsson Jr experienced most of those successes himself, basking the Celtic Park cauldron atmosphere as a youngster when his father, a stalwart of the glory-rich ‘Hoops’ team in the late 1990s and early 2000s, regularly celebrated silverware.
But for the younger Larsson, validation, not emulation is the priority. He himself is currently enjoying a purple patch with Spartak in Russia, where his fine scoring form which has put the country’s most decorated football team into the running for a chance at the title and endeared himself to the ultras of the capital club.
“For me Celtic will always have a special place in my heart, not that I’ve played there in that sense, but it was the first place where I saw football as a young kid going with my mother to see games when my father was playing,” Jordan told RT Sport over Zoom.
“That’s where I have the biggest memories in my head: ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ you have all the scarves before the games and everything so of course it will always have a special place in my heart but at the same time since my father is who he is at the club I think for me personally if I would ever have the chance to play there then I would like to establish myself even more, make my own name before I would play there if that chance would ever come up but of course it’s tempting.
“Not that they are interested in that sense but If I think about it to be able to play there would be a dream in that sense.
Although a move to Celtic is admittedly tempting for Jordan, the Swedish starlet has made it clear he is ready to shake the inevitable tag of ‘Henrik Larsson’s son’, and instead carve out a path for himself in the game that has surrounded him since he was an infant. The first steps on that path begin with domestic success with Spartak, that would propel them into the Champions League.
“I think for every player it’s a dream to play in the Champions League and like you said there’s been some rumors you know since my father is who he is, but no for me my whole life has been about proving I’m a good player, that I’m my own person you know,” he says.
“I think a lot of people who don’t know me think of me as just Henrik Larsson’s son you know. The more I’ve progressed in my career the more and more people have started to know the name Jordan Larsson so I just want to continue on that path and of course to be able to play in the Champions League with Spartak will be a big dream and to compete against the best players in the world is I think what every player wants and what I dream of as well so yeah if we can succeed with that this year I’d be really proud of the team and also will be looking forward to next season.”
Henrik won the Champions League in 2006 with Barcelona, providing the assist for their two goals, and himself has returned to one of his former clubs as Barca assistant manager to boss Ronald Koeman at Camp Nou, where Jordan began his career at the clubs La Masia youth academy.
He has kept keen tabs on his son’s progress, and was present when he scored two goals in two minutes to seal a 3-0 win over Lokomotiv in the Moscow derby in 2019.
“He told me he was proud of me,” Jordan says of his father’s impressions of his performance in one of Russia’s biggest games.
“I’ve been in his shadow for a bit, since he played he was a big player, so for him to be able to see me progress and be able to score two goals against a Champions League team – we was just really proud and really happy to see me be able to do it not just in front of him but in front of my mother and my sister and my girlfriend – you know the whole family was there.
“So it was a big moment for me and also it felt like a little bit of a breakthrough for me because in the beginning when I came here I wasn’t playing really well. I was playing in a different position, you know it takes some time to settle in. With those two goals I felt a lot more confidence and a lot more comfortable and from that game I think I started to progress and play better.”
On the international stage, Jordan Larsson has managed a handful of caps for Sweden, having also been eligible to play for Holland due to being born in Rotterdam during his father’s time at Feyenoord, and managed his first goal for the team in a friendly against Moldova at the beginning of 2020.
That in itself signals a leg of the path which follows in the footsteps of father Henrik, who reached a 3rd-place finish at the USA ’94 World Cup, the highlight of his 106-cap career with ‘The Blue and Yellow’.
“Of course it was a big moment for me. It was amazing for me even though it wasn’t really the best players in the national team so to speak, he was trying a few new players but still scoring for your country is a big big pleasure and a big so it was amazing and then also being called up to the real national team so to speak for the first time was an amazing accomplishment for me.
“Now I’m just trying my best to keep that spot and to be able to take steps also to be able to play and to challenge for a spot there as well.”
For those looking to distinguish between the storied career of Henrik Larsson and he fledgling career of his son, how would Jordan Larsson the player be described in three words?
“Wow you’re putting me on the spot here! I would say: fast, goalscorer and assist-provider,” Larsson laughs. Despite sharing the same name, appearance, and goalscoring capabilities, Larsson is determined to be described not just as ‘Henrik Larsson’s son’, perhaps Russian champion?
“I hope so, that’s the goal. That’s what we’re aiming for,” he says surely.