Jari Litmanen is a Finnish former footballer who served as the captain of the Finland national team from 1996 to 2008. Counted amongst Finland's greatest footballers of all time, he has represented HJK, MyPa, Lahti, and Reipas during his club career in Finland as well as Barcelona, Ajax, and Liverpool abroad. The Association of Football Statisticians has listed him as the 53rd best footballer ever. Born in the city of Lahti, Litmanen grew up in a family of footballers. His father was a Reipas and Finnish international player while his mother had also played the sport. Following in the footsteps of his parents, Litmanen kicked off his football career in 1987 at the age of 16, making his first-team debut for Reipas. He made his international debut in October 1989 when he represented his team in a match against Trinidad and Tobago. His international career ended in 2010. He was known as the "Kuningas" ("The King") during his heyday. On 10 October 2010, he became the first Finnish team sport player to have his statue unveiled for his contribution to sports. On the personal front, he has two children with his long-term partner.
Childhood & Early Life
Jari Litmanen was born on 20 February 1971, in Lahti, Finland, to footballers Olavi and Alice Litmanen. Owing to his parents’ profession, the young boy was exposed to football at a tender age.
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Jari Litmanen started his club career in 1987, playing for Reipas in the then-top division Mestaruussarja.
In 1991, he joined Finland's biggest club HJK. The following year, he was acquired by MyPa where he played under the guidance of coach Harri Kampman and helped his team win the Finnish Cup.
After he was released by MyPa, he was acquired by Ajax, and he became the league's top scorer in the 1993–94 season.
In the 1995 Champions League final, Ajax beat Milan, and Litmanen became the first Finnish footballer to win the European Cup. That year, he also lifted the Intercontinental Cup after defeating Grêmio.
In the 1995–96 UEFA Champions League, he was the league’s top scorer with 9 goals, including the equalizer in the final against Juventus that his team eventually lost. The footballer ended his contract with Ajax and moved to Barcelona and eventually Liverpool on a free transfer.
Although he was part of Liverpool when it won the "cup treble" of the FA Cup, Worthington Cup and UEFA Cup in 2001, he didn’t appear in all the three finals. During his tenure with the team, Litmanen scored 9 goals in a total of 43 official matches.
For the 2002-03 season, he once again played for Ajax and helped them reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League. After the season’s end, he was released and joined Lahti.
He then played for Hansa Rostock and Malmö FF until January 2008 when Fulham signed him. The footballer made his team debut on 31 March 2008 in a match against Tottenham. He was later released by Fulham in May that year.
For the remainder of the 2008 season, he played for Lahti, helping them qualify for Europe for the very first time. On 16 April 2009, he extended his contract with Lahti and went on to score his first ever European goal for them in a 2–0 win against Gorica.
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On 23 October 2010, Litmanen scored his 50th Veikkausliiga goal in a match where his team lost to TPS.
In April 2011, he joined HJK, initially starting as a substitute. In September, he scored the much-needed half volley and helped his team win by 2-1 in the Finnish Cup final against KuPS.
On 29 October 2011, he celebrated his 200th league match, enjoying HJK's victory over Haka. This also proved to be the last match of his career.
Jari Litmanen made his international debut on 22 October 1989 in a match against Trinidad and Tobago. On 16 May 1991, he scored his first goal against Malta.
He served as the captain of the Finland national team from 1996 to 2008.
On 25 January 2006, he earned his 100th cap in a match against South Korea and became one of the only four Finnish players to reach the milestone.
On 17 November 2010, Litmanen netted a penalty in an 8–0 victory over San Marino and became the oldest footballer overall to score a goal in the qualifying rounds for the UEFA European Championship.
Family & Personal Life
In 2005, Jari Litmanen welcomed his son, Caro, with his girlfriend Ly Jürgenson. The couple’s second child, a son named Bruno, was born in 2007.
A documentary based on his career, “The King – Jari Litmanen,” was released in 2012.