Jesper Blomqvist: United Before and After
Many will remember Manchester United’s treble winning side of the 1998-1999 season that is still the most successful in Premier League history, and it is very easy to remember the players at the forefront of this record breaking season, big names such as Beckham, Schmeichel, Keane and who can forget Yorke and Cole’s formidable partnership, but there were many equally as talented players on the cusp of the starting XI who’s names aren’t as world-renowned, one such player is Jesper Blomqvist.
During a successful but injury plagued footballing career, Blomqvist earned many honours, most notably a third place finish in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States and of course his treble winning first season with United, as well as an astonishing five Allsvenskan (Swedish Championships) titles, four of which in consecutive campaigns.
As a youngster Blomqvist started his playing career with his hometown side Tavelsjö IK, and his talent was evident as he was signed by then Swedish second tier side Umeå in 1992. Blomqvist spent just one season with the side where he won the Division 2 Norra Norrland title, helping to gain the side promotion to the Allsvenskan for the first time in their history.
Blomqvist then moved to Division 1 Norra side IFK Göteborg the following season, where he won four consecutive league titles with the Blue-Whites, also earning Swedish midfielder of the year and fan’s player of the year in 1996, as well as a goal of the season award the previous year.
After their 1993 title win, IFK qualified to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League and faced tough opposition in order to qualify, coming up against Man United, FC Barcelona and Galatasary. Although it was widely anticipated IFK would not qualify from the group, they surpassed all expectation by doing so as winners, even knocking out Manchester United with a shock 3-1 victory, a game in which Blomqvist scored and is said to have first caught Ferguson’s attention.
Although Ferguson had expressed an interest in signing the left midfielder, Blomqvist eventually joined Serie A side AC Milan in 1996, who were the current holders of the title at the time. Milan failed to replicate their previous season’s result and finished in a disappointing eleventh place, failing to qualify for European football. Blomqvist spent much of his time at Milan on the bench, and so in search of first team football he joined Serie A runners up Parma after only one season with the Rossoneri (Red and Blacks). Parma finished sixth in Blomqvist’s first and only season with the club and after many failed attempts to sign the Swede, Ferguson finally got his man. Blomqvist joined United in 1998 for a fee of £4.4 million. Commenting on the signing, Ferguson said: “Looking back I should have tried harder to bring cover for Ryan Giggs on the left side. I did try to buy Blomqvist from AC Milan but they wouldn’t sell him. They eventually let him go and perhaps I should have pushed them harder.”
In his first season at United, Blomqvist proved his worth, playing a pivotal role in helping his new club to the treble. Rather surprisingly Blomqvist played 25 league games, scoring just one goal against Everton in a 4-1 victory and although an unused substitute in the FA Cup final win against Newcastle United, he still received a winner’s medal. Blomqvist also played in the unforgettable Champions League final comeback against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp, eventually being substituted for Teddy Sheringham who, alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjær, scored the vital goals to ensure a 2-1 stoppage-time victory.
Although at United for a total of three years, Blomqvist suffered a very serious knee injury after his first season, subsequently resulting in him missing the following two. His time was up at the club and Ferguson convinced good friend and then Everton boss Walter Smith to sign the winger on a short-term contract until the end of the 2001-2002 season. However Blomqvist’s injury problems persisted and after a total of only 18 games for Everton, he was allowed to leave in the summer. He was then offered a trial at Middlesbrough, which he completed, but did not join the club as he was said to be unhappy with their handling of the situation. He eventually joined Charlton Athletic on a free transfer but once again his injuries got the better of him and he made just 4 appearances for the club.
Blomqvist then returned to Sweden, signing with Djurgårdens IF where he won the Allsvenskan for a fifth and final time, despite making just nine league appearances. Blomqvist then hung up his boots and retired from football in 2005.
Like all good footballers, Blomqvist then turned to punditry, working for Swedish television station TV4, covering domestic league games. In September 2006, after a visit to Umeå, Blomqvist was the victim of an assault, being struck twice in the face, for which his attacker was prosecuted.
Blomqvist returned to Swedish football in 2008, coaching Superettan (Swedish second tier) side Enköpings SK, for whom he even played ten matches after the club suffered a shortage of players due to injury, resulting in him scoring his first professional goal for five years against IK Sirius.
After leaving Enköpings SK, who were relegated in the 2009 season, he became assistant manager to Michael Borgqvist at Hammarby IF where he also played a handful of games. In November 2010 though, Blomqvist left the club via mutual consent.
Blomqvist now resides in Sweden, owning a nightclub in Stockholm, and is said to have a property in Croatia.
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