Showing posts with label Far-flung Finn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Far-flung Finn. Show all posts

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Far-flung Finns - Përparim Hetemaj

After a winter break, the far-flung Finns series returns, looking at the Finnish international midfielder Përparim Hetemaj, now in his third season in Italy's Serie A.

While Hetemaj is not the stereotypical Finn (he was born in Serbia and has to bleach his hair blond), he is the sole Finn playing in the prestigious Serie A, and doing a fairly good job as well. With Serie A returning this weekend, Hetemaj has started 17 out of 19 games in the league and has accrued six yellow cards already (and a suspension).

In action against Napoli

He's certainly well-travelled, having played for AEK Athens, FC Twente and Brescia prior to his arrival in Verona. There have been rumours that he could be moving to Lazio, although it appears that they are solely from his admission that he is a Lazio supporter! That may explain the recent denial that he will be heading to Roma in January...

He made an impression on British audiences in August with a fantastic free-kick in the friendly against Northern Ireland in Belfast. He also scored in the 0-3 win away to Cyprus in November, his third goal in 18 full caps.

 The Finns celebrate the free-kick

Having just turned 26, he's at a good age for a transfer. But Chievo are in a decent 11th position in the league, and only Lazio finished 2012 stronger. He's still the only Finn to have scored a goal in Serie A.

His brother Mehmet currently plays in Serie B for Reggina, and they've played together for Finland U21. Thick as thieves? The photo below suggests so...

The last one to let go of the ball wins

Përparim is another name to keep an eye out for in January - will he end this season with Chievo? Watch this space.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Far-flung Finns - Niklas Moisander

Part three in the series of Finns playing elsewhere features defender 27-year-old Niklas Moisander, currently turning out for Dutch giants Ajax.

This past week has seen Ajax eliminated from Group D of the Champions League, and one fewer Finn involved in UEFA's premier tournament in the new year - only Teemu Pukki of Schalke is likely to still be involved by February. They are still ahead of Manchester City in the race for the Europa League, but with a final game away to Real Madrid, it's nowhere near certain (however City have to travel to Dortmund).

 Niklas attempts to endear himself to Arsenal fans

Moisander was a slightly surprising transfer in August 2012, returning to a club where he failed to make an appearance in a three year spell there from 2003-06. Ajax had sold Jan Vertonghen to Tottenham, and needed a replacement. The Finn had been doing well for AZ Alkmaar, winning the league title in 2009, so one imagines that he must have been promised regular games.

But things aren't going smoothly so far, Moisander was sent off in the match at Feyenoord, where Dutch tactics blog 11tegen11 identified Niklas as almost a sure thing for a booking in that Feyenoord match, and in nine league games has three yellows and that red. Ajax are currently fourth in the Eredivisie table, nine points behind leaders PSV. Despite their attacking talents of Eriksen, Fischer and de Jong, Ajax have conceded 16 goals in 13 matches.

In an interview with (in Dutch after re-signing, Niklas talks of the struggles of his first spell at the club, but praises how he developed as a player, and plans to become an example to the younger players at the club.

Frank de Boer and Marc Overmars show off their new signing

Having left Finland at such a young age (he only played 17 matches for TPS), he seems very settled in Holland - although he has been linked with Newcastle United in England. He's getting more games at Ajax, more exposure, and European football - he even scored against Man City and Real Madrid.

His thirty Finland caps seems a small figure, but having only made his debut in 2008, is now the captain and looks set to be a regular fixture. But he has work to do at Ajax, and such a transient team needs stability to try to and defend their title.

On international duty vs Hungary in 2010

Monday, November 12, 2012

Far-flung Finns - Jussi Jääskeläinen

The second part of our series on Finns plying their trade abroad focuses on Jussi Jääskeläinen of West Ham United, the longest-serving foreign player currently in the Premier League.

That Bolton survived in English football's top division for so long was quite a surprise, they were a true definition of a yo-yo club in the late 1990s. But after returning in 2001 under Sam Allardyce, they became long-serving members and even qualified for Europe in 2005. The one constant in their stay in the top flight was Finnish goalkeeper Jussi Jääskeläinen, signed in 1997 for just £100,000 (approx €125000) from VPS.

Jussi Jääskeläinen in his VPS days

Jääskeläinen made over 500 appearances for Bolton, once one of England's great clubs (they won the first FA Cup final to be held at Wembley). They were finally relegated in 2012, but the Finn didn't feature as much in the second half of the season due to the emergence of Hungarian keeper Ádám Bogdán. His contract expired, and opted to re-join Allardyce at newly-promoted West Ham, back in the Premier League. Early signs are that he's made the right move.

Jääskeläinen vs Manchester United, voted third best Premier League save (third clip on video)

West Ham were relegated from the Premier League in 2011 with a whimper, but came back up at the first attempt, and after eleven matches are sitting a surprising sixth place, above Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle. They've conceded eleven goals, fewer than Manchester United. It is perhaps indicative of how important their new keeper is that he is currently the top-scoring goalkeeper in the official Fantasy League.

Denying Papiss Demba Cisse in Sunday's 1-0 win at Newcastle

Winner of 56 international caps for Finland, he's showing at 37 that he can still perform at the top level. While several rumoured moves to Arsenal never happened, he's showing perhaps why they have missed out.

He was typically blunt when giving an interview to the official West Ham website after their opening day win against Aston Villa, but even a top-half finish would be a fantastic achievement. While he stated he won't consider a return to international football, coach Mixu Paatelainen must wish he had such options to choose from.

On international duty

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Far-flung Finns - Sami Hyypiä

(In the absence of domestic Finnish football now until 2013, we will be looking at how some prominent Finns across Europe are up to)

When former Liverpool and Finland central defender Sami Hyypiä retired from playing football in 2011, he said that his plans to get his coaching license would mean 100% or nothing. He must have made a good impression, he was appointed caretaker manager in April 2012 after the sacking of Robin Dutt, and the club finished the Bundesliga season in fifth place.

Lord of the manor

During the summer of 2012, he was appointed as full-time manager, sharing the responsibilities with coach Sascha Lewandowski (Hyypiä has not yet qualified to be a sole manager). A bold move, but early indications are that it was the right move. Ten matches into the league season, Leverkusen are currently in fourth place - nine points behind leaders Bayern Munich, albeit after a poor start which saw the side lose at promoted Eintracht Frankfurt and champions Dortmund.

The season defining moment so far has been a win at the Allianz Arena, a first win at Bayern since 1989 (which The Guardian's Rafael Honigstein reported as the lifting of a curse). A 2-1 win was a tremendous result, but also vital at that stage.

A promising start in the Europa League has also seen wins in Rosenborg and Vienna, but the club's ambition is to return to the Champions League, and Hyypiä is aware of that. In an interview with in pre-season, he acknowledged that the players got a taste last year, and want a return. Having kept Andre Schürrle and Lars Bender at the club, they are well placed.

Taking a training session

And so Leverkusen are now unbeaten in seven league games, in the last 16 of the DFB Pokal (where they travel to Wolfsburg) and are well placed to progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League. Some Liverpool forums have already championed the name of their former captain as a future manager, and he was very diplomatic when asked about the possibility when at Anfield for a friendly in August, when he praised Brendan Rodgers to the hilt.

Hyypiä is starting show that Germany is becoming a hotbed of young Finnish talent, and not just on the pitch. It's hard to imagine that he'd consider a return to Finland at this stage, but he's only 39, and has proved that the obvious step isn't the one he'll choose.

Eye on the ball