Scottish football could drastically change over the next few years with the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. It could spell the end of many foreign players arriving on our shores due to stringent work permit rules set by HMRC.
But while the Scottish Government is looking to secure their future in the European Union after Scotland voted to remain, Scotzine editor Andy Muirhead looks at the foreign players who have graced our game and who would make his greatest XI.
Over the decades, Scottish football has been graced with some world class talent from beyond our shores and some that should never be mentioned ever again in the same breath as football. Sadly such talent is a distant memory nowadays due to the hugely inflated wages in England and beyond, but the years that they spent in Scotland has enriched the history of our game and inspired new generations of fans and players alike.
I had already drawn up a list of players that had graced our game before I put out a tweet on the very subject. For the most part, the names being listed were the same that I had noted down, but every fan has their favourite player and those they think should be listed in a Greatest XI – many will be questioning my final eleven but at the end of the day these are the players I have watched in the flesh and believe they justify their inclusion.
Goalkeeper: Stefan Klos [Rangers]
For me there was only one choice for the goalkeeping position in my Foreign XI, while I may have sided with Polish keeper Artur Boruc as my number one, my keeper has to be Rangers number one Stefan Klos.
The German signed for Rangers just two years after winning the UEFA Champions League with Borussia Dortmund [team mate of Paul Lambert]. With nearly 400 appearances under his belt at Dortmund, two Bundesliga titles, a runners-up medal in the UEFA Cup and an Intercontinental Cup winners medal – Klos signed for Rangers making him one of the world’s highest paid footballers at that time with a basic salary of £4.5 million, a loyalty bonus of £1 million and £500,000 for win and appearance money.
Der Goalie had massive boots to fill when Dick Advocaat signed him for just £700,000 following Andy Goram’s departure ahead of season 1997-98.
During his eight and a half years at Rangers, he won ten honours – including four league titles, four Scottish Cups and two League Cups – and was an integral part of the Rangers side that won the treble in 2002-03.
As a Celtic fan, my most iconic moment involving Stefan Klos has to be that chip from Henrik Larsson when Celtic beat Rangers 6-2 at Celtic Park in 2000. Despite that embarrassing moment, Klos’ performances over the years between the sticks secured legendary status at Ibrox and in 2009 he was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame.
Injury sadly curtailed his time at Rangers and eventually ended his career, but there is no denying that Klos was one of the greatest foreign keepers in Scottish football – arguably the greatest.
Right Back: Sergio Porrini [Rangers]
The right back position was difficult to choose as there was a number of quality defenders to choose from, including Frank de Boer, Sergio Porrini, Fernando Ricksen and Sergei Baltacha. But I have gone with Sergio Porrini.
Porrini was signed in 1997 from Juventus, a year after he had won the Champions League against Ajax, for around £4 million as David Murray continued to spend big. The Italian was a no-nonsense defender who loved a tackle especially against marauding wingers.
A born right back, Porrini was comfortable on the ball, his positioning immaculate and he scored a couple of goals to boot. The Italian was part of the Juventus side that lost to Stefan Klos and Paul Lambert’s Borussia Dortmund side – and it is amazing the number of quality players that Scottish football as graced with in the late 90s.
He was comfortable playing in central defence as much as right back and was a constant in the Rangers team for two seasons, but injury curtailed his time at Rangers and Fernando Ricksen soon took over the right back role.
Porrini left Rangers in 2001 with two league titles, two Scottish Cups and a league cup under his belt to give with the honours he won at Juventus.
Central Defender: Craig Moore [Rangers]
A graduate of the Rangers youth system, the tough tackling Aussie Defender had two spells at Ibrox, culminating in him being named club captain and winning twelve major honours – including five league titles, four Scottish Cups and three League Cups.
He spent around 11 years at Ibrox, sandwiching a season down in the English First Division in season 1998-99, returning north after the London side defaulted on transfer payments. He made over 50 appearances for the Australian national team and captained the Olyroos at the 2004 Olympics – reaching the quarter-finals of the competition. He missed the start of the Scottish football season due to his participation in the Olympics angering then-manager Alex McLeish who stripped him of the club captaincy and dropped him, months later he left Ibrox on a free transfer to German Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Despite his career at Rangers ending on a sour note, his work rate, defensive prowess and leadership at the back justifies his inclusion in my team.
Central Defender: Johan Mjallby [Celtic]
The Big Swede signed by Josef Venglos for £1.5 million from AIK Solna in November 1998, with his debut being the 5-1 demolition of Rangers at Parkhead days later.
Under Martin O’Neill, Mjallby grew in stature at the heart of the Celtic defence, giving it a huge physical presence and controlled aggression – cancelling out Bobo Balde who tended to just scythe down anyone. He bullied opposition attackers and it paid off for Celtic.
Strong in the air as well as on the deck, Mjallby is a perfect addition to my back four. Not only was Mjallby solid at the back, he was also a goal threat at set pieces.
An integral part of Martin O’Neill’s side that reached the UEFA Cup Final in 2003, he won three league titles, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups at Celtic before injury ended his time with the Parkhead side in July 2004, when he joined Spanish side Levante.
Left Back: Giovanni van Bronckhorst [Rangers]
There were three players that I could have chosen for the left back role, but rather than selecting Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre or Rangers’ Artur Numan, I went with Numan’s fellow Dutchman Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Already a regular with the Dutch international side, van Bronckhorst was signed by compatriot Dick Advocaat in 1998 for £5 million. His debut for Rangers was in the 5-3 win over League of Ireland outfit Shelbourne in the UEFA Cup. He would go on to score 22 goals for Rangers in all competitions, winning two league titles, two Scottish Cups and a League Cup.
He left Rangers in 2001 signing for Arsenal, before he moved to Barcelona and helped Frank Rijkaard’s side win the 2005-06 Champions League Final – alongside former Celtic striker Henrik Larsson – against former side Arsenal.
Central Midfielder: Jorg Albertz [Rangers]
Deadly with his left foot, especially from set pieces, Jorg Albertz is another addition that I questioned – merely because I thought I should have an enforcer in the middle of the park – but who cares I went for another with a huge attacking threat.
The Hammer, as Albertz was affectionately known, scored 82 goals for Rangers in a five-year stint at Ibrox. He had an explosive left foot and despite a lack of pace, he could outmuscle opponents with ease.
Signed by Walter Smith for £4 million from Hamburg, the German would go on to become a club legend in part thanks to his slaying of Celtic on a regular basis.
After winning three league titles, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups – Albertz fell out with Smith’s successor Dick Advocaat and left in the summer of 2001 for previous side Hamburg.
Central Midfielder: Stilian Petrov [Celtic]
The only good thing that John Barnes brought to Celtic Park, the Bulgarian was signed in 1999 for £2 million from CSKA Sofia.
Learning English by working in a friend’s burger van, Petrov made his league debut as a substitute in the 2-1 defeat to Dundee United. His first season at the club was little to write home about and was overshadowed by the turmoil at the club which culminated in Barnes being sacked.
Under Martin O’Neill, Petrov went from a defensive player to an attacking midfielder and it proved to be a master stroke from the Northern Irishman as the Bulgarian would prove to be an integral part of the side.
Part of a Celtic midfield of Lambert, Lennon and Thompson, Petrov excelled in his new role and he was voted 2001 SPL young player of the year. In season 2002-03, he helped Celtic reach the UEFA Cup Final losing 3-2 to Porto.
His addition to the list was an easy decision to make, thanks to the important goals he scored as well as providing a barrel load of assists for his team mates.
In 2006, having won everything domestically in his seven years at Celtic, Petrov handed in a written transfer request and in August he signed for Aston Villa linking up with Martin O’Neill once again.
Celtic missed his combative nature as well as his goals in the years that followed, he may have been a huge loss to Celtic but Villa secured a seasoned professional and became a club legend at the Birmingham club as well, before retiring due to illness.
Amazingly, four years after retiring due to his battle with Leukemia, the Bulgarian is back training with the Birmingham side as he looks to secure his way back into the game.
Central Midfielder: Shunsuke Nakamura [Celtic]
With Albertz on the left of the midfield and Petrov through the middle, I have selected Nakamura to play alongside Petrov on the right side. Again due in part to his attacking and set piece threat – rather than a combative nature.
Signed by Gordon Strachan in 2005 for £2.5 million, little was known about the Japanese playmaker at the time but Celtic fans and Scottish football as a whole was in for a treat.
Blessed with superb vision and an ability to pass second to none, the midfielder quickly became a fans favourite. A free kick specialist, he scored some hugely important goals including a superb free kick against Manchester United to send Celtic into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in season 2006-07 and in the same year his last gasp goal against Kilmarnock handed Celtic the title at Rugby Park.
He scored many memorable goals for Celtic, but other than the free kick at Celtic Park against Manchester United, his strike against Rangers from 35 yards out is one that will be remembered by Celtic fans for years to come.
His final season at Celtic was hit by injury, as well as continued links with a move back to Japan. In June 2009, he signed for Spanish side Espanyol. He left Celtic with three league titles, a Scottish Cup and two league titles.
Attacking Midfielder: Lubo Moravcik [Celtic]
Aged 33 by the time Moravcik was signed by Josef Venglos in 1998 from Duisburg for just £200,000, his signing did little to excite the Celtic support but it was the Scottish media who tore into Celtic for signing what they saw as a dud.
Dismissed as a laughable signing by Hugh Keevins – who questioned why Celtic didn’t sign a proven talent in John Spencer instead. Another journo who regularly dined on lamb, Jim Traynor, labelled Moravcik’s cut price deal a ‘further embarrassment’ for Celtic. How Lubo made them eat their words.
Making his debut for Celtic in the 6-1 win over Dundee at Celtic, the Slovakian proved from the very beginning how special a talent he was. But it was the 5-1 demolition of Rangers at Parkhead two weeks later that saw Moravcik achieve legendary status among Celtic fans.
Sublime on the ball, as well as having vision to match, he was a joy to behold.
Lubo left Celtic in 2002 for Japan after four years, 129 appearances and 35 goals. Winning two league titles, a Scottish Cup and two League Cups.
His link up play with Celtic striker Henrik Larsson is another reason for his addition to my team as the next person on my team is the Swede himself.
Forward: Henrik Larsson [Celtic]
The first name on my teamsheet. The Swede was signed from Feyenoord by manager Wim Jansen in 1997 for a fee of £650,000. He would go on to become a legend at Celtic, but the start to his Celtic career was less than impressive, first he made a bad pass to Hibernian’s Chic Charnley who scored seconds later and then in his first European game he scored an own goal.
Despite the early hiccups, Larsson would go on to help Celtic stop Rangers winning ‘ten in a row’ scoring 19 goals for Jansen’s side.
Moravcik’s arrival the year after started Larsson’s transition from another striker towards legendary status. Larsson profited from hugely from Moravcik’s talents and he delivered goals.
The Barnes/Dalglish era was as bad for Celtic as it was for Larsson, with the latter breaking his leg in two places during a European match against Lyon. It was a horrific injury and the Swedish striker would be out for eight months.
Martin O’Neill’s arrival at Celtic Park heralded a significant improvement for Larsson and one that would see him become a club legend.
With the likes of Sutton, Thompson and Lennon in the squad, the whole dynamic of the squad changed and Larsson was reborn. He came alive in the first Old Firm derby of the season as Celtic ran out 6-2 winners, with that famous chipped goal over Klos etched into the memory of all Celtic fans.
Larsson partnered perfectly with Chris Sutton up front for Celtic and that season he scored 35 goals in 37 games, as Celtic secured the treble. The accolades followed for Larsson as he was awarded the European Golden Boot for highest scorer in Europe.
Season 2002-03 was to be the defining moment for Larsson at Celtic, they may not have won any silverware but Martin O’Neill’s side would reach the UEFA Cup Final losing 3-2 to Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Larsson’s goals were pivotal to Celtic reaching Seville, and when it came to the final itself the Swede scored twice and was still on the losing side.
Larsson’s final season in 2003-04 saw him win a league and cup double again, scoring 30 goals in 37 league games.
He would leave Celtic for Catalan giants Barcelona and in May 2006, finally secured European gold as he came off the bench to assist both of Barcelona’s goals in the 2-1 win over Arsenal. Larsson was the game changer and it was his crowning moment. But in Scotland, Larsson would forever be remembered as the greatest foreign footballer in the history of our game.
Forward: Brian Laudrup [Rangers]
One of the most gifted and entertaining players in the history of Rangers and Scottish football, Brian Laudrup’s arrival at Rangers was overshadowed by the capture of Champions League winner Basile Boli but it would be the Dane who would go on to be remembered as a true great.
The Danish international was equally deadly with both feet and good in the air, he was a true master of the game and terrified opposition defences. When he was in possession that ball stuck to his foot like glue and add that to his blistering pace, he would rampage through opposition sides to set up his team mates or to score on his own.
Laudrup, who had helped Denmark win the 1992 European Championships, had it all – the flicks, the deft touches and a powerful shot – during his four year stay at Rangers he helped secure nine in a row and scored 45 goals in 151 appearances.
The 1996 Scottish Cup Final against Hearts was dubbed the Durie/Laudrup Final, but really it was all Laudrup. While Durie scored a hattrick, it was Laudrup who took the plaudits making all three of Durie’s goals and scoring two of his own. Rangers ran out 5-1 winners at Hampden Park.
Criticised by some for not being able to head a ball, Laudrup answered his critics superbly when he scored the goal that would secure Rangers their ninth title in a row through a header. Against Dundee United at Tannadice, Laudrup ran into the box and rose high to meet a Charlie Miller cross heading home past United keeper Sieb Dijkstra. It was the only goal of the game but it was fitting that Laudrup would score.
When he left Rangers in June 1998 for Chelsea, Laudrup had won three Championships, a Scottish Cup and a League Cup. Laudrup’s inclusion in my greatest foreign XI is a no brainer – other than Henrik Larsson – Laudrup is the greatest threat to opponents and a Larsson-Laudrup partnership would have been epic.
Subs: Artur Boruc GK [Celtic], Franck Sauzee [Hibernian], Ronald de Boer [Rangers], Russell Latapy [Hibs/Rangers/Dundee United/Falkirk], Paulo di Canio [Celtic], Arthur Numan [Rangers], Dado Pršo.
My Greatest Foreign XI may be filled solely by Old Firm players, but they were the best players among the rest. The substitutes bench itself has a plethora of talent also, and it would be a hard team to beat. But just imagine if the UK were out of the EU during the days these players graced our game? obviously some would have still managed to meet work permit rules, but others that are listed – Petrov for one – and many more would not have had a chance to star in our game.
Who would you have selected in your Greatest XI? Choose players from those you have seen in the flesh and let us know in the comments section below.