Player Profile: Jesper Blomqvist
Date of Birth: 05/02/1974
Height: 1.76 m
National Team: Sweden
International Caps: 30
International Goals: 0
Every now and then, you come across footballers who have all the talent in the world but seem destined not reach their potential. Jesper Blomqvist was one such player. For someone blessed with great speed and skill, Blomqvist had a relatively short stint at the top. Despite boasting an enviable trophy cabinet, his career was repeatedly blighted by injury and that eventually saw him make an early exit from the game.
Blomqvist signed for his hometown club Umeå FC in the third-tier of Swedish football when he was just 18. He immediately stood out and began drawing attention from the country’s biggest clubs. In his only season with the club, he fired Umeå to the title and promotion to the second-tier.
Big guns IFK Göteborg came calling in the summer and Blomqvist duly signed. He had quite the start to life in the Allsvenskan with his eight goals helping fire them to the Swedish top-flight title.
But the highest point of his season was when he scored in the Champions League against Manchester United, knocking them out of the competition. That performance caught the eye of the club’s manager Alex Ferguson, who was instantly interested in bringing the winger to England. However, it would take a few more years before the Swede would end up at the club whose fans still regard him as a cult figure. And for good reason!
Blomqvist’s time at Göteborg coincided with the most successful period in the club’s history, and he was a driving force behind it. Göteborg dominated the Swedish top-flight for four straight seasons, winning the Allsvenskan in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Despite the earlier interest from Manchester United, it was AC Milan that would eventually succeed in prising him away from Sweden – Blomqvist recalls telling his agent that he would only leave Göteborg if Milan came calling.
However, he had a torrid time at Milan, spending most of the Serie A season on the bench. After his season yielded just one goal, Milan decided to cut their losses and offloaded Blomqvist to Parma. There he found regular game time again, featuring in 31 matches and scoring once.
As it happened, Alex Ferguson was still monitoring him, and the Scot finally made a move for the player he’d been interested in signing three years earlier. United had missed out on the title the previous season thanks to their regular left-winger Ryan Giggs suffering an injury. Therefore, Ferguson was keen on adding reinforcement in that position and saw Blomqvist as the ideal back-up player. His transfer would seem like masterstroke come the end of the season.
Blomqvist’s bitter experience in Milan initially caused him to doubt whether he would get enough game time at United. But he did just fine, making 38 appearances in all competitions. His greatest achievement though would come in United’s final game of the season. The Red Devils had already secured the Premier League and the FA Cup. Now only Bayern Munich stood in their way of winning the Champions League and completing a historic treble.
Ferguson had a problem though – both his central midfielders Paul Scholes and club captain Roy Keane were suspended for the final. Blomqvist had played a direct role in Keane’s suspension – he misplaced a pass in the semi-final against Juventus, causing Keane to make a challenge on Zinedine Zidane. The yellow card that Keane earnt for the challnege ruled him out of the final.
In the absence of Scholes and Keane, Ferguson opted to field David Beckham alongside Nicky Butt in central midfield. Ryan Giggs moved to the right-wing to fill the void left by Beckham, while Blomqvist replaced Giggs on the left. The very situation that Ferguson had foreseen at the beginning of the season was here.
In the final, Blomqvist put on an admirable shift as two late goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gifted United an improbable 2-1 victory over Bayern and helped them to the treble. Blomqvist admits to celebrating so hard that he briefly lost his winner’s medal, only finding it after searching all over the pitch.
However, his highest point at United would also prove to be his last match at the club. Injuries meant he missed out on the next two seasons and United eventually ran out of patience and released him.
A season at Everton lasted only 15 games, while a stint at Charlton was even shorter. In 2003, after playing a grand total of 22 matches in his last four seasons in England, Blomqvist moved back to Sweden, this time Göteborg’s rivals Djurgårdens IF.
This move proved to be unpopular with fans of his former club, who labelled him “Judas”. However, from a purely footballing perspective, it proved to be a good move. Although he only played a bit-part role for the club, he was able to taste title success once more as Djurgården won the 2003 Swedish top-flight.
After his last two seasons with Djurgården were written off through injury, Blomqvist decided to hang up his boots. However, he returned to the field briefly in a player-manager capacity with Enköping, and then at Hammarby before officially calling time on his career in 2010. But as the Swede said, he played his last serious match on that night in Barcelona in 1999.
Jesper Blomqvist was part of the talented Swedish team that finished third in the 1994 World Cup in the USA. He hardly played in that tournament though, only featuring in draws with Cameroon and Brazil in the group stage as Sweden marched to the semi-finals of the tournament.
Overall, Blomqvist accumulated 30 appearances for the national team in his eight years of service. A tally that could no doubt have been greater, had he not been plagued by injury. His final match came in 2002, and he retired having failed to register a single goal for his country.
Where is Jesper Blomqvist now?
Blomqvist had a brief stint as a player-coach at lowly Enköpings SK, before working as an assistant manager at Hammarby. While at Hammarby he also made six appearances as a player. He now works as an ambassador for Manchester United and regularly features on Swedish television as a football expert.
Away from the game, Blomqvist has tried his hand at many things. He studied a university course in commerce and then later on food and wine pairing. Despite admitting to making several bad investments since his retirement, Blomqvist now runs a successful pizzeria in his native Sweden which he manages full-time.
Did you know? Interesting facts about Jesper Blomqvist
– Blomqvist was once assaulted while in his hometown Umeå.
– During his extended time out with injury at Manchester United, Blomqvist started hosting a cookery show on the in-house TV channel MUTV titled ‘Cooking with Jesper’.