Anders Limpar: 'Everton Team Spirit Was The Best Of My Career'

by Paul McNamara
@Everton

The brilliant Anders Limpar told Everton’s matchday programme about the time he needed police protection in Sweden, his efforts to find food halfway up Mount Everest and why there was no team spirit like the one he enjoyed at Goodison.

Sean McVay is head coach of Los Angeles Rams American Football team. A recognisable figure in his homeland, McVay’s global fame rocketed earlier this year when he was filmed demonstrating his extraordinary ability to detail every play from every match he has overseen.

McVay’s powers of recall come to mind during a conversation with Anders Limpar. No matter the game – be it with Cremonese in the late-1980s, or one of the 82 he played for Everton – give Limpar an outline and he’ll fill in the gaps.

“I can remember all my games, details from matches I played 25, 30 years ago,” says Limpar. “I am a man who likes details. “I can tell players how to improve the details of their games: how to take on a player – on which side, what to do straight after when another defender is coming. I am good at that.

“But I can’t see how to change the game. When a team is losing 2-0 and needs to switch tactics? For me that is impossible. I can’t see it.

“That is why I am not a good manager. I am not like a Jose Mourinho or Unai Emery. I am a good assistant.” 

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Limpar’s vast memory banks also house the names of everyone who helped shape his decorated football career, however big or small their influence.

There have been some unlikely aids along the way, Ray Wilkins and Alan Hansen, among them. Limpar is grateful, too, to Mike Walker, for delivering the compelling sales pitch which convinced him to reject an offer from Manchester City in favour of joining Everton in March 1994.

On completing his move to Goodison Park from Arsenal, Limpar slipped from the grasp of a disappointed Kenny Dalglish for the second time.

“I went to Liverpool to play for a contract in 1987,” says Limpar. “Kenny Dalglish brought me over for three weeks and they wanted me to sign.

“But Sweden was not in the EU and you needed 10 international caps to get a work permit. I had three.

“Alan Hansen looked after me when I was there. I played with John Barnes, Ray Houghton and the rest of them.

“Then, when I was leaving Arsenal, I was going to Manchester to talk to City. On the way, Mike Walker phoned my agent.

“And Kenny Dalglish called to say he would love to have me at Blackburn. “My agent said, ‘We can’t come to Blackburn, we have to go to Manchester and Everton’. Kenny was a little bit angry about that.

“I signed for Everton because I liked Mike Walker’s way of talking football. It was a little bit different when I joined, though.”

Walker never would see peak Limpar, the virtuoso winger’s ingenuity strangled by the pressure of a relegation fight in his opening months at the Club.

Joe Royle’s appointment as manager eight months after Limpar arrived liberated the Swede.


"Joe was like a father to me,” says Limpar. “We had long chats every day. He wanted me to express myself, he wasn’t like George Graham, who was always telling me, ‘You have to defend’.

“Joe said, ‘Have a go, Anders, make your talent speak for itself’.”

Limpar’s magical ability made noises from the moment he pulled on a pair of boots as a 10-year-old with hometown side AIK Solna. He was playing first-team football for IF Brommapojkarna in Sweden’s second division aged 15.

But it was Limpar’s move to top-flight club Orgryte five years later which opened the door to a whole new world. Orgryte were managed by Agne Simonsson, one of the finest footballers to come out of Scandinavia and owner of an enviable contacts book.

“He organised for me go to AC Milan for a month,” says Limpar. “I had time with Como and Eintracht Frankfurt.

“I wasn’t on trial, it was so I had the experience of being a true professional. I trained with Milan’s first team.

“I have been blessed and fortunate to have good people around me.

“Ray Wilkins took care of me – him and Mark Hateley were the only guys who spoke English.

"Ray was a father to me and helped me become a professional footballer – he taught me how to act, the whole thing. And I have to thank Ray Wilkins.” 


Limpar left Everton for Birmingham City in January 1997. “I can’t even remember that spell,” says Limpar. “It was a dark period in my life.”

Not the darkest, though. In late 2000, following nearly two years in the States with Colorado Rapids, Limpar signed for Djurgardens IF. Djurgardens are the bitter rivals of AIK, Limpar’s childhood team and the club where he had returned as the boy-done-good to win a league and cup double after his three-month stay at Birmingham.

“I did the most stupid thing you could do as a footballer,” says Limpar. “I went to Djurgardens. “It was a horrible, horrible story, which I don’t want to go too far into.

“I had police protection for three months. It was hell for me.

“I came from AIK and signed for Djurgardens, that’s not the cleverest move you can make, I can tell you that.”

Why do it, then?

“AIK thought I was too old. It is better to tell a player, ‘You are not good enough’. Not that you are too old, that is rubbish.

“I wanted to stay in Stockholm, so I signed for Djurgardens. I shouldn’t have done it.”

Limpar and Djurgardens agreed to split amicably before he played a game. The whole ordeal stung Limpar all the more for the fact he was resettling in the Swedish capital after 12 years away – save for his brief return with AIK.

Limpar moved to Switzerland with Young Boys Berne in 1988. “It was good for me,” he says. “I became a proper professional and all the games were live in Italy, Germany and France.

“A true legend, Tarcisio Burgnich, who played for Inter and Italy, was the manager of Cremonese and watched me quite a lot.”

Burgnich liked what he saw and took Limpar to Italy when football was booming in the country.

It was 12 months before the Italian World Cup and none of Europe’s other major leagues could hold a candle to the quality of Serie A.

“I am blessed that I played in Italy at that time,” says Limpar. “Inter had Klinsmann, Mattheus and Brehme.

“It was the Milan of Rijkaard Gullit, and Van Basten. Maradona, Careca and Alemao were with Napoli. I had an incredible year.”

Cremonese actually beat Milan and drew games with Juventus and Napoli. Burgnich’s team, though, needed the scent of a giant’s blood in their nostrils to raise a gallop and were relegated back to Serie B.

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Limpar was never going to hang around, even if he wanted to. He finished behind only Diego Maradona and Lothar Mattheus in a poll to determine Serie A’s best overseas player – “I should have won, shouldn’t I?” he laughs – and could pick from fellow Italians Genoa, Uerdingen 05 in Germany and Arsenal for his next destination.

“I knew nothing about English football around that period, I chose Arsenal because it was a big club,” he says.

Limpar was relatively unknown on these shores when he joined the handful of overseas players in England in 1990, albeit more observant supporters might have noticed him during Sweden’s “dreadful” World Cup finals campaign.

“We were a little bit big headed and thought we were better than we were,” says Limpar. “We lost to Brazil in the opener, which anyone can do. But Scotland? We were beaten on a silly corner.

"Then we were 1-0 up at half-time against Costa Rica and going through. But we lost 2-1.”

Limpar credits the influx of a fresh generation of players for his country finishing third in the two subsequent major competitions, their home European Championship in 1992 and the 1994 World Cup in USA.

“Jonas Thern, Patrik Andersson,” he starts, before unintentionally referencing an iconic piece of Barry Davies commentary. “Brolin, Dahlin.”

In Arsenal, Limpar joined a team that was “like a self-playing piano”.

The best he played for? He tosses the question around in his mind. 

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“The best team… but the team spirit was much better at Everton,” he says.

“We spent time together outside football. Everyone was in an hour before training, we were on the same level when it came to pranks. It was like 20 brothers.”

Arsenal won the league with something to spare in Limpar’s debut season. A couple of years down the line, though, he became a victim of manager Graham’s changing outlook.

“He became more scared of losing and I did not fit in,” says Limpar. “He picked players like Jimmy Carter and Eddie McGoldrick because they were better going backwards.”

Limpar’s competitive edge has endured into retirement. He hesitates initially when it is put to him his injury enforced retirement in 2001 must have been hard to accept.

“Aagh,” he exclaims.  “Yes, it was. Especially because I couldn’t tell the world I wanted to stop. It was the worst feeling.”

In 2015 Limpar entered and won Swedish reality television show The Greatest Adventure. His staccato description of the programme is a gem.

“We were walking 75 hours without eating,” he says. “Anything you wanted to eat, you had to catch yourself. We were in Argentina, Kenya, Nepal, Chile, all around the world trying to survive.

“And I managed to win that thing.

“Only because I’m a footballer, with that strength of mind and team spirit.

“It was nine weeks of hell. We spent 75 hours in a swamp, can you believe that?

“We were 4,000 metres up Mount Everest. You don’t eat for 17 hours. Halfway up Everest, can you find some food there?

“When you are competing, you do silly things. You just want to win.

“So you cope with sleeping on the ground when it’s minus 16, I couldn’t even tell you the feeling.”

Limpar’s recollection of his time in America’s very young MLS, where he moved in early 1999, is similarly colourful. “Someone could run offside and a voice on the PA would shout, ‘Offside: offside is when the player is on the wrong side of the defender’,” says Limpar.

“We lost 5-0 against Kansas and I have never signed so many autographs in my life.

“Now the league is really good. Back then? Bah. It was more of a media circus than a football league.” 


Limpar was at his spellbinding best when Everton beat Manchester United in the 1995 FA Cup final, two years after a calf injury – the problem which eventually forced him to quit – kept him out of two Wembley finals for Arsenal.

“Winning the Cup with Everton was the best feeling ever,” says Limpar, who harbours only one regret from his time at Goodison.

He declined a three-year contract offer in 1997. “My son Jesper was seven and we wanted him to start school in Sweden,” says Limpar

“I had been abroad nearly 10 years and was a bit fed up. But I regret not signing again with Everton.”

Limpar has been out of football since leaving his job as assistant manager with Swedish third-tier club Sollentuna United three years ago.

His energies today are consumed by his involvement with a Swedish company which exports various products to China.

Limpar has visited Shanghai three times this year but refutes the suggestion he has a nose for business.

“I have really clever people around me, five incredible businessmen,” he says.

“Sometimes I miss being in football like you won’t believe.

Other times I think, ‘It is nice to not be in Sweden in winter’. “It is absolutely freezing, there is a lot of snow and you can’t teach anything.

“The game is not professional in Sweden. You train in the evenings and travel a lot at the weekend, so you don’t see your family.

“If an offer came for me to work back in football on a professional level, I would definitely consider it.”

As ever, the devil, for Anders Limpar, is in the detail.

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