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Monday, November 5, 2007

The Great Swedish "Mister" Nils Liedholm, Il Barone

Image courtesy
of Wikipedia. Click
the image to see video
highlights of his career.

Today, at his home in the Northern Italian province of Alessandria, Nils Liedholm, one of the greatest players and coaches to grace the Italian peninsula, died at the age of 85.

World Cup Record

As a player, he won a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics. He was also vice-champion of the world in 1958 for Sweden, who lost in the final to Brasil. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Liedholm is the oldest player (36) to ever score in a World Cup final. Sweden lost that day, 2 x 5, to the Brasil of the young Pele'.

Italian Career

He began his Italian experience in the 1950s for AC Milan. Along with Gunnar Gren and Gunnar Nordhahl, Mr. Liedholm was part of the famous Gre-No-Li line. As a player, he won the Italian championship four times. Later as the coach of AC Milan and AS Roma, he won a championship with each one, respectively. In 1984, while coaching Roma, he lost the historic final of the European Cup against Liverpool in Rome. He also coached at Fiorentina, Monza, Varese, and Verona in a stellar managing career that lasted over 35 years.

In Italy, he was affectionately known as "Il Barone." He married an Italian woman, and most of his long life was spent in his adopted country.

Here is a quote from a previous interview in La Gazzetta dello Sport:
"Ma non si deve criticare solo il catenaccio. Ci si difende anche a centrocampo, con mille falli tattici. Io ripetevo ai miei giocatori: se fai fallo sbagli due volte. La palla resta a loro e mandi un messaggio di debolezza. Io mi allenavo molto, contro un giocatore o due, per portar via palla senza fare fallo".

"But one can't criticize only catenaccio. You can defend in midfield, with a 1000 tactical fouls. I used to repeat to my players: If you made a foul, you made two mistakes. The ball remains with them and you sent a message of weakness. I used to train a great deal, against one or two players, to be able to take the ball away without fouling them."

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