Sweden has seen many of its top players cross to the English Premier League. They have been a strong international country in recent years, but their domestic competition isn’t the best in the world, so the top talent tends to move abroad.
England’s elite division is a popular destination, but who are the best Swedish players to have featured in the EPL?
Greatest Swedes in the Premier League History
This list is in no particular order, but many would argue that Freddie Ljungberg was the best Swedish player in Premier League history. He may not have been the most naturally talented, but he gave great service to Arsenal over nine successful seasons at the club.
Ljungberg moved to the Gunners from Halmstad in 1998. He’d developed a reputation as a talented and attacking winger, and was already part of the Swedish national team. He stayed at Arsenal until 2007, scoring 72 goals in all competitions across 325 appearances. Freddie Ljungberg also won six major honours in English football, including two Premier League titles.
English fans were privileged to see one of the most naturally talented players of all time. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was already in the veteran stages of his career when he joined Manchester United from PSG in 2016, but his brilliance was still intact.
He stayed at Old Trafford for two years, although injuries were an issue towards the end of his spell. Zlatan’s incredible touch and eye for goal remained, and he scored 17 times in 33 league matches for United. Ibrahimovic also claimed winners’ medals in the EFL Cup, the Community Shield, and the Europa League.
Before Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another prolific Swedish striker had graced English football. Henrik Larsson’s stay at Manchester United was even shorter, but he was such a major talent that we have to include him.
While playing at Helsingborgs, Larsson was sent out on loan to United in 2007. He played 13 games across all competitions, scoring three goals and, because of EPL rules, he was entitled to a League winner’s medal at the end of the 2006/07 season. Away from England, Henrik Larsson was a hero of Scottish football, scoring 242 goals in just 313 games for Celtic.
Swedish international defender Olof Mellberg spent seven years in the Premier League with Aston Villa. He joined the Midlands club from Racing Santander in 2001, and remained at Villa Park until 2008, when he moved on to Juventus.
Mellberg proved to be one of the EPL’s most reliable defenders during his time at Aston Villa. He quickly became a regular starter and was made captain by his manager, David O’Leary. In two of his seven seasons at the club, he played in all 38 of Villa’s league matches. He was strong and durable, and Olof Mellberg is remembered fondly by Aston Villa fans.
A midfielder who provided a threat from set-pieces, Sebastian Larsson played for three English clubs across his career. He began with Arsenal, where he developed through the youth system, before making his professional debut in 2004.
The Swede struggled to command a place with the Gunners and was occasionally played out of position, and he joined Birmingham City in 2007, after an initial loan deal. Larsson also featured for Sunderland in the Premier League, before finishing his time in England with Championship club Hull City. His highlight came in 2011 when his Birmingham City side beat Larsson’s old club Arsenal in the final of the EFL Cup.
Centre forward Johan Elmander formed part of a competitive Bolton Wanderers side for three seasons. A tall striker, Elmander broke Bolton’s transfer record when they paid £8.2 million to Toulouse for his signature.
The attacker scored on his debut against Stoke City, and everything looked promising. However, as Bolton began to struggle in the division, service dried up, and Elmander found it difficult to score goals. He still made important contributions as his club focused on survival and 18 goals across those three campaigns helped Bolton Wanderers to stay up.
Johan Elmander moved to Galatasaray in 2011, but later returned to the Premier League, where he spent a season on loan with Norwich City.
Injuries meant that English fans didn’t see the best of Jesper Blomqvist, but the Swedish international midfielder still enjoyed success during his time in the Premier League. He joined Manchester United from Italian side Parma in 1998, and by that stage, he was one of the most sought after players in Europe.
In his first season at Old Trafford, Blomqvist found himself as back up to Ryan Giggs, but he made enough appearances to be a part of Manchester United’s historic treble. The Swede won medals in the Premier League and FA Cup, and he also started the successful Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 1999.
It all looked promising, but a serious injury struck ahead of the following campaign, and Jesper Blomqvist didn’t play another competitive game for Manchester United. He did recover and moved to Everton in 2001, and he also appeared briefly for Charlton Athletic before finishing his playing career in his native Sweden.
With 148 senior caps for the national team, midfielder Anders Svennson holds the record for the most senior appearances for Sweden. He’s hugely respected in the game, and will alway be remembered as one of his country’s best ever players.
Svennson spent most of his career with Swedish side IF Elfsborg, but he tested himself in the Premier League during a four-year period with Southampton. He joined the Saints in 2001, and immediately became a first choice starter in his defensive midfield position.
He was part of the team that reached the final of the FA Cup in 2003 and became a fans’ favourite at St Mary’s. In 2005, he returned to Elfsborg and stayed at the club until retiring ten years later.
Martin Dahlin was one of Sweden’s best strikers. He was productive for the national team and earned a solid reputation with his first two clubs, Malmo and Borussia Monchengladbach.
The centre forward was a regular scorer in his early career, and his returns persuaded Blackburn Rovers to sign him from Roma in 1997.
Martin Dahlin’s time at Ewood Park wasn’t exceptional, and this is another case of one of Sweden’s greats who couldn’t quite produce his best form in England. In thirty games for Blackburn across all competitions, Dahlin scored six goals.
Central defender Victor Lindelof joined Manchester United from Benfica in 2017, and he remains an important player within the Old Trafford squad. He made his professional debut with home side Vasteras SK, before Benfica acquired his services in 2012.
It took some time for Lindelof to settle, and the player featured in less than half of United’s league games in his first season at the club. Since then, however, he’s become a reliable member of the defence and a regular first team choice.
Victor Lindeloff will be aiming for major silverware at Old Trafford, but he already has an EFL Cup winner’s medal from Manchester United’s successful campaign of 2023.
Defender Roland Nilsson was playing in England when the Premier League began in 1992. He joined top flight club Sheffield Wednesday a year earlier, and stayed for five years at Hillsborough. In that time, Nilsson proved to be one of the most reliable defenders in the division, and was part of an entertaining and successful Wednesday squad.
Nilsson won the Football League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday in 1991 and also played in the club’s FA Cup campaign of 1993 when they reached the final. Roland Nilsson returned to Sweden with Helsingborgs, but later came back to England for two spells with Coventry City.
Along with Victor Lindelof, Alexander Isak is the only Swedish international on this list to still be playing in England at the time of writing. A striker, Isak joined Newcastle United from Real Sociedad in 2022, and he’s proving to be a prolific scorer for the Magpies.
The forward enjoyed good scoring records at each of his previous clubs, but he’s enjoying his most productive period right now. Isak’s first 50 goals at Newcastle across all competitions have produced 24 goals, and fans will be hoping that the Swede can fire their team to an overdue trophy.
The domestic leagues and cups in Sweden may be competitive, but the depth of quality isn’t as strong. Here, and in other countries around the world, that situation will always mean that the top players look abroad for greater challenges.
While there will always be some debate over who has and who hasn’t been included, we can surely all agree that these are exceptional Swedish footballers. Not all of them produced their top form in England, but they are among the best that their country has delivered.
As always, we close by asking who will represent the next generation of Swedish talent to perform at the top level in the English Premier League?