Nordic teams have a strong history in international football with the likes of Denmark and Sweden often in the mix at major tournaments. However, Finland have not been anywhere near as lucky as their neighbours, having failed to appear at any major tournament since their first match in 1911. However, this is all set to change as the Huuhkajat will appear at their maiden tournament at Euro 2020. It’s a surprising fact considering that Finland has produced many top players throughout their existence. Some of their greatest names have won all that there is to offer in club football and shone at some of the biggest clubs in the sport. So just who are the best Finnish footballers of all time?
Best Finnish footballers of all time
One of the more underrated goalkeepers of his time, Jussi Jaaskelainen proved himself capable of shining at the highest level. Spending the majority of his time in English football, the shot stopper spent a staggering 15 years with Bolton Wanderers before spending another 6 seasons with West Ham and Wigan.
Known for excellent reactions, speed in the area and a consistent performer, Jaaskelainen was always a player appreciated by fans, players and pundits alike. Whilst he failed to win any major trophies during his playing career, his actions on the pitch are still revered by many English football fans to this day.
You will find very few foreign players loved more in Merseyside than Sami Hyypia who shone as Liverpool’s defensive general during much of the early 2000s and who is unquestionally one of the best Finnish footballers ever. Having impressed previously in Eredivisie at Willem II, Hyypia’s move to Liverpool sparked The Reds back to live. An imposing figure in the Liverpool backline, the big Finn commanded the box and was always around to cut out any attacking threats.
He also posed a huge threat in the air making him difficult to manage from set-pieces as well as when opponents tried to break down the defence. His partnership with Jamie Carragher was pivotal to forming a defensive base which helped Liverpool win 2 FA Cups, 2 UEFA Super cups as well as the famous 2005 Champions League triumph. Hyypia’s consistency helped him win a staggering 10 Finnish Player of the Year awards and 105 caps for the national side.
Peltonen may be unfamiliar to many but the striker proved to be one of Finland’s earliest breakout stars. Playing predominantly in the 1960’s, Peltonen became the first Finnish player to play in Germany when he joined Hamburg in 1964 from FC Haka. His time in Germany was disrupted by a contract dispute forcing him to return to his hometown club helping them dominate Finnish football for almost a decade.
He scored 108 goals in 310 appearances winning 2 Veikkausliga titles with Haka as well as 5 Finnish Cup titles earning 3 Finnish Player of the Year aswell during this spell. A trendsetter that showed what was possible for those keen on leaving the confines of Finnish domestic football.
A technically proficient capable of playing on either wing, Joonas Kolkka proved himself to be a threat no matter where he played in Europe. Kolkka’s excellent crossing ability made plenty of chances for his teammates and his ability to play on both flanks made him a constant goal threat.
Kolkka’s versatility made him a valuable asset in some of Europe’s top sides including PSV Eindhoven, Borussia Monchengladbach and Panathinaikos as a well a spell in England with Crystal Palace. Kolkka’s best success came with PSV where he won two Eredivisie titles in both 2000 and 2001. Having also earned 98 caps for Finland in a 16 year spell, Kolkka proved himself to be one of Finland’s elite players of any generation and he is among the best Finnish footballers of all time.
If many people think about Finnish football, many often immediately think of Jari Litmanen. The tenacious attacking midfielder had crazy speed and dribbling skills that could see him dismantle teams singlehandedly. Add to that a coolness under pressure and it made for a threat to many of the best teams on the planet. Litmanen truly shone best with Ajax throughout the 1990s where he helped them win 4 Eredivisie titles, 3 Dutch Cup wins and the 1995 Champions League Final.
His best form came in the 1993/94 season where he scored a staggering 36 goals in 39 games across all competitions. He enjoyed further success with Liverpool where he was part of the 2000/01 team who completed a unique cup treble of the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup that season. He also led the national team by example captaining Finland from 1996-2008 earning 137 caps and scoring 32 goals – both national records. Alongside this, Litmanen won the 1995 Sports Personality of the Year and 9 Finnish Player of the Year Awards cementing his status as one of the best Finnish footballers of all time.
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