Norway has always shared a close history with Britain in many different areas and the love of football in both nations is no different. Many Norwegian players have come across the North Sea, bringing a mix of physicality and technicality to their game that made them unique opponents for home grown players. It’s not too surprising to learn that 70 Norwegian internationals have appeared in the Premier League since it was founded in 1992. So who are the best to emerge from the land of Vikings?
Henning Berg (Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United)
For the best part of a decade, Henning Berg was out to prove that he was one of the best defenders in European football. He did this down to his excellent tackling abilities and fearless nature – making him a commanding threat in his own area. It was these efforts that made him part of the Blackburn Rovers side that shocked the world to win the Premier League in the 1994/95 season and subsequently earned him a move to Manchester United in 1997. Berg remained a regular in the United backline for several seasons and would claim two more league titles with United in 1999 and 2000. He moved back to Blackburn in 2000 before leaving to join Rangers in 2003. Berg’s success for two clubs means he is the only Norwegian player to win the Premier League title with two separate clubs.
Ronny Johnsen (Manchester United, Aston Villa, Newcastle United)
Norway was blessed with several world-class defenders in the 1990s and none where more versatile than Ronny Johnsen. Capable of playing anywhere in the backline and as a holding midfielder, Johnsen’s endless running and excellent passing made him a real asset when at Manchester United. It was why Johnsen played a key role in several title-winning seasons at Old Trafford. After a lack of opportunities with United in the early 2000s, Johnsen left to join Aston Villa in 2002 and appeared intermittently over several seasons for the club before appearing briefly for Newcastle in 2005 before retiring halfway through the 2004/05 season due to injuries. An underrated star who never stopped working for his team.
Tore Andre Flo (Chelsea, Sunderland)
What made Tore Andre Flo a star in English football was his ability to do just about anything. He had pace, could finish with both feet and was also a nuisance in the air. It was why he led the line for Chelsea with great consistency at the turn of the century notching double figure tallies for all three seasons he was at Stamford Bridge. A big-money move to Rangers briefly ended his time in England before a move to Sunderland manifested itself in 2002. After the club was relegated at the end of the 2002/03 season, Flo left the club to join Siena in Serie A and permanently ended his time in English football.
John Arne Riise (Liverpool, Fulham)
It was always easy to tell when John Arne Riise was on the pitch. The full-back was tall but exceptionally quick for his size – making it easy for him to contribute in both attack and defence. And he had a ridiculously powerful left-foot. His ability to lash the ball home from distance from a dead-ball situation made him a valuable asset to have. He even scored 7 goals in his debut season to underline his attacking prowess. After seven seasons with Liverpool, Riise enjoyed a brief spell with Roma before moving back to England to play with Fulham. He was a regular for Fulham but he left to join Cypriot side APOEL in 2014. A player who could make a startling impact with just one strike.
Brede Hangeland (Fulham, Crystal Palace)
If you wanted a defender to act as a wall for your team, Brede Hangeland was the man to call for. At 6ft 6, Hangeland towered above opponents however had the smarts to produce clean tackles and kill attacks dead within the blink of an eye. His height also made him a useful tool to deploy at set pieces which often proved vital for Fulham and Crystal Palace in tight relegation battles. Hangeland’s best season came with Fulham in 2010/11 where he scored 6 goals that season and helped The Cottagers secure their status as a then-fledgling side in the Premier League. A real presence on and off the pitch whenever he played.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)
In a team full of major names, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved that even quiet individuals could succeed at the highest level. Solskjaer used his speed and smarts to often undo defences when they least expected it – earning him the moniker “The Baby-Faced Assassin”. He often ended seasons with double figure goal tallies with a best total of 18 goals in 33 games during the 1996-97 seasons. Having spent over a decade at Old Trafford, Solskjaer ended his career with 6 Premier League titles and 2 Norwegian Player of the Year awards too. If you throw in that Solskjaer is the most decorated Norwegian player in Premier League history as well as leading their goal tally with 91, it’s easy to see why Solskjaer is considered the greatest Norwegian player in Premier League history.