Birthdate: 20 February 1971
Birthplace: Lahti, Finland
Other clubs: Lahden Reipas (1977-90), HJK Helsinki (1991), MyPa 47 (1992), Ajax (1992-99), Barcelona (1999-2001), Ajax (2 / 2002-04), Lahti (2004), Hansa Rostock (2005), Malmö (2005-07), Fulham (2008), Lahti (2 / 2008-10), HJK Helsinki (2 / 2011)
Bought from: Barcelona
Signed for LFC: 04.01.2001
International debut: 22.10.1989 vs. Trinidad & Tobago
International caps: 137/32 (10/4 at LFC) - 17.11.2010
Liverpool debut: 10.01.2001
Last appearance: 27.04.2002
Debut goal: 10.02.2001
Last goal: 09.04.2002
Contract expiry: 30.08.2002
Win ratio: 55.81% W:24 D:10 L:9
Games/goals ratio: 4.78
LFC league games/goals: 26 / 5
Total LFC games/goals: 43 / 9
Player profileLitmanen became one of Europe's most renowned players with Ajax in Amsterdam. He played five years in the Finnish league before moving to Holland in 1992. Ajax team manager, David Endt, gathered by his first impression of Litmanen that he was something special. “The press conference is over, and in comes Jari Litmanen, from behind the door. And I looked at his face and I looked at his eyes, and I recognised something in those eyes," Endt told Finnish TV in 2010. "And I thought, this is a man with a great willpower. Because he was not shy, not timid, but he was modest. He is not a man who will raise his voice, or bang with his fist on the table and say, ‘We do it this way.’ No, he was more of a diplomat, not wanting to be a leader, but being a leader. We called him "The Professor," because you could ask anything about football, and he would know the answer." In his second season, 1993/94, Litmanen scored 26 goals in 30 league games as Ajax won the title. He was the Eredivisie's top-scorer and voted Footballer of the Year. Litmanen became European champion with Ajax in 1995 and was voted the World's third best player. He scored Ajax's goal in normal time against Juventus in the European Cup final a year later, but Ajax lost in a penalty shoot-out. After 159 league games and 91 goals for Ajax Litmanen answered the call of his former coach Louis Van Gaal to join Barcelona on a Bosman in the summer of 1999. Litmanen picked up an injury in the beginning of his Barca career and worse was to follow when Van Gaal was sacked in May 2000. Llorenc Serra Ferrer took over and clearly wanted nothing to do with Litmanen. Houllier gave him the chance to join up with his boyhood idols. Litmanen's teammates at Ajax had complained about his constant talking about all things concerning Liverpool Football Club. When he left Ajax for Barcelona he said goodbye by having "You´ll Never walk Alone" played on the loudspeakers as he walked off the park.
This proved to be a case of third time lucky for Liverpool as they had tried to sign Litmanen twice previously. Roy Evans wanted to sign him in 1998 but didn't get the necessary funds and Houllier tried to sign him in 1999 but he left on a Bosman to Barcelona. "We have signed a world-class player. He comes with a massive reputation and I believe he's one of the most exciting signings we have made," Houllier said excitedly. Doubts remained over an ankle problem that had dogged him in the past. Injuries did hamper Litmanen's progress in his debut season as they did in the latter stages of his career and he didn't participate in any of the three finals Liverpool succeeded in. Litmanen left Anfield early on in the 2002/03 season after seemingly being criminally underused by Houllier in his second campaign. Twice he scored in two games in a row and was left on the bench for the third game. He scored the winning goals against Tottenham and Dynamo Kiev in September 2001, but was substitute against Newcastle. History repeated itself when he netted goals against Arsenal and Aston Villa in December 2001 but was only on the bench against West Ham. The problem was that Litmanen had difficulties in training due to his ankle problems and was hardly able to play for ninety minutes week in and week out. It did come as a surprise when he was considered not useful enough for a starting place when Liverpool had progressed into the Champions League quarter-finals against Leverkusen, the only player of real experience in this competition in the side. He came on as a substitute in both legs, scoring a goal in the second leg that almost put Liverpool into the semi-final. Litmanen was puzzled by Houllier's treatment of him. "It's strange that he was so pleased when he signed me and then decided to not use me. I cannot explain it myself." Houllier's explanations made his reasons even more puzzling. "I let Jari go because I have always believed he had great potential which could benefit other teams. When we had some difficult moments, he was there for us, notably with goals against Fulham, Sunderland, AS Roma and in other crucial games. He had a lack of opportunities in the team but I really liked the reaction of the Ajax players towards Jari when I sold him!"
Jari returned to Ajax in Holland after leaving Liverpool but now in his early 30's he was never able to reproduce the form he had shown during his first spell in Amsterdam. He returned to his homeland to play briefly for Lahti and then had equally brief spells with Hansa Rostock in Germany and Malmö in Sweden. On the last day of January 2008 Litmanen was unveiled as a Fulham player, now managed by Roy Hodgson. As Hodgson had previously managed the Finnish national team, he knew what Litmanen was capable of. Yet he surprisingly failed to use the player's experience in a single Premier League fixture as Fulham battled, ultimately successfully, against relegation to the Championship. Before the end of the English season, Litmanen was back in Finland, playing again for Lahti and proving with two goals and two assists in the first match of his second spell there that he was still capable of doing a good job at a decent level of football even at the age of 37.
After two more full seasons at Lahti in 2009 and 2010, Litmanen returned to HJK Helsinki twenty years after he had first arrived there. This meant that he would still be playing competitive football despite passing his fortieth birthday, a very rare achievement for an outfield player. At international level, his selection to play for Finland against South Korea in January 2010 meant that he had achieved the rare distinction of playing for his country in four different decades. Later in the same year he became Finland's oldest international and also the oldest player to score in a European Championship qualifying match when he successfully took a penalty kick against San Marino. Litmanen had become Finland's most capped player when he surpassed Ari Hjelm's record by playing his 101st international against Belarus on 1 March 2006. He played his last international in November 2010, which was his 137th in which he scored 32 goals. Litmanen scored a tremendous goal in extra-time of the Finnish cup final in September 2011 after coming on as substitute in the eightieth minute in HJK Helsinki's 2-1 win over KuPs. Helsinki won the Veikkausliiga as well with the team winning all 18 games Litmanen participated in.
Didi Hamann appreciated the time he spent with Litmanen at Liverpool. "I've never seen a player with such a good eye for the final forward next to him or his teammates. He never missed a pass, his vision was just unbelievable. He wasn't the quickest when he came to us but his performance on his debut at Aston Villa was one of the best I've ever seen in a Liverpool shirt."
Appearances per season
A more detailed look at the player's appearances
|2||West Ham United|
Goals per season
A more detailed look at the player's goalscoring
|1||10.01.2001||Crystal Palace||Selhurst Park||League Cup|
|1||79||10.02.2001||Sunderland||Stadium of Light||League|
"It's strange that he was so pleased when he signed me and then decided to not use me. I cannot explain it myself."
Litmanen on Houllier
"Keegan and Dalglish were extra special to me because they played in my best position, just behind the main strikers. That is why the no 7 shirt had a special attraction I am more than happy to settle for 37, anything with a 7 in it will do."
Litmanen signing for Liverpool in 2001
"You know, Jari wanted to stay, and I couldn't understand that. But I let him go because I have always believed he had great potential which could benefit other teams. I am very pleased for him that things are going so well for him at Ajax. When we had some difficult moments, he was there for us, notably with goals against Fulham, Sunderland, AS Roma and in other crucial games. He had a lack of opportunities in the team but I really liked the reaction of the Ajax players towards Jari when I sold him!."
Houllier on Jari Litmanen
"I've never seen a player with such a good eye for the final forward next to him or his team-mates. He never missed a pass, his vision was just unbelievable. He wasn't the quickest when he came to us but his performance on his debut at Aston Villa was one of the best I've ever seen in a Liverpool shirt."
Didi Hamann on Jari Litmanen
"I used to watch Jari Litmanen a lot. I enjoyed how he moved and got into space. And he was patient. If you looked at him, he always never looked like he was rushed doing anything. He always used to take his time. Then, when the opportunity came, he found the space to get the ball in the net. The more you do it, the more it works. You need to know where everyone is on the pitch. You need to see everything."
Wayne Rooney on Jari LItmanen in May 2012