The first player in (hopefully) a series of player profiles on this blog is Finland’s main striker, Mikael Forssell.
|Mikael Kaj Forssell|
|Information correct as of 23 August 2010|
|Date of birth||15 March 1981|
|Place of birth||Steinfurt, West Germany (now Germany)|
|International debut||09 June 1999|
|Current club||Hannover 96, Germany|
|Previous clubs||Birmingham City, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Crystal Palace, Chelsea, HJK|
Mikael Forssell has become a fixture of the Finland side. His talent was recognised at an early age and he made his debut for the Huuhkajat at 18 years old. That was eleven years ago, in 1999; only injuries have kept “Miklu” from picking up more than his 68 caps in that time.
After coming through HJK Helsinki’s youth system, Forssell made his first appearance in the Finnish Veikkausliiga aged just 16, and a year later he was already on his way to Chelsea in England. As is so often the case with young talents moving to “big” clubs, he found his playing time limited, making it very difficult to break into the first team. This led to a number of loan spells, first with Crystal Palace, then Borussia Mönchengladbach and Birmingham City. In total, Forssell spent four years playing at other clubs while still in Chelsea’s employment.
Despite flitting between clubs and suffering from a recurring knee injury, Forssell managed to make 33 appearances for the national side while he was a Chelsea player, scoring 11 goals in the process. One of his best performances in a Finland shirt came in June 2001, as he scored two goals in the first half of a World Cup qualifying match against Germany which ended 2-2.
In 2005, Forssell completed a £3m transfer to Birmingham City, but he was unable to replicate the same form he had produced for them while on loan, and his contract was allowed to expire in 2008, paving the way for the striker to move to Hannover 96 in Germany, the country of his birth. His debut came in a remarkable pre-season match where he scored 10 goals in a 23-0 victory over an amateur side, but he was unable to find the same scoring touch in the Bundesliga, scoring only seven goals in 32 matches over the last two seasons.
Meanwhile, Forssell’s next 38 international appearances resulted in only eight goals, three of which came in a 5-1 demolition of Macedonia in Tampere in 2005. That match aside, seven goals in 37 appearances gives a strike rate of one goal every five-and-a-half matches, significantly down from the one in three he achieved in the first half of his career.
That brings us up to date. What should be made of Forssell’s career overall? Unfortunately, Forssell hasn’t been able to fully realise the huge potential he showed for the Finnish youth teams, and in one season at Birmingham in particular where he scored 17 goals. It would be harsh to blame the player himself, as injuries and a lack of playing time during his formative years at Chelsea have been big potholes in his path.
Forssell’s main strength is, or has been, his ability to convert chances into goals, and he remains a highly important player for Finland. As I discussed in my team analysis, Finland don’t have a lot of options up front, so Forssell’s international career looks like it is far from finished. The team will be hoping he can rediscover his form to help them through their Euro 2012 qualification campaign.
A story that broke today is that Rapid Wien of Austria have made an approach for Forssell, who has fallen down the pecking order at Hannover and is unlikely to feature regularly in their starting line-up unless other players succumb to injury. If he is to reach full fitness and sharpness, he needs to be playing as much football as possible, and so the move would seem like a sensible one. It seems that the biggest stumbling block is (if you read my previous post, you can probably guess:) money. Rapid cannot offer the same pay as Hannover, so unless the German club subsidise Forssell’s wages after he leaves them, he may well stay put. I shan’t go as far as to criticise him if he does stay where he is – how many of us could honestly say we’d move to a new country to receive less money for our work – but I really do think he would benefit from the extra playing time. Rapid are also in the qualifying stages of a European competition – the Europa League – which is more than Hannover can boast.
I follow Mikael on Twitter, and in the last few weeks he’s made two particularly interesting tweets. One said he sat on the bench for 90 minutes in Hannover’s first league match of the season, and one before that said that he missed a penalty while the team were knocked out of the DFB-Pokal, a domestic cup competition, by lower-league Elversburg. Could that have been his last action at Hannover? We should find out by the time the transfer window closes in eight days’ time.