Ten years ago today, Sunderland picked up an absolute diamond of a player on a free transfer, one who would go on to serve the club under countless managers, featuring in a good few memorable games and scoring the odd spectacular free kicks along the way.
Sebastian Larsson had come through the ranks at Arsenal under Arsène Wenger before being signed, initially on loan, by Steve Bruce for Birmingham City in 2006. In the summer of 2011 he was out of contract after rejecting a new deal at St Andrews, and had almost joined both Sunderland and Newcastle United during the previous January transfer window.
Sunderland had sold their young midfield prospect, Jordan Henderson, to Liverpool a few days earlier, and manager Steve Bruce the 26-year-old Swede seemed a perfect replacement for the England international:
Seb was a fantastic young player for me at Birmingham and he has matured into a very good midfielder. He has been courted by a number of top clubs over the summer – both in England and across Europe – so we are naturally delighted that he has chosen to come to Sunderland.
Bruce also signed Republic of Ireland Keiren Westwood on a free the same day as Sunderland looked to build upon their top-ten finish. Although Westwood failed to make an impact at the Stadium of Light, Larsson would go on to make 176 appearances for the Black Cats over six years, scoring a dozen goals along the way.
He became well established as a fans favourite despite the downward trajectory of our club during his career on Wearside, and was in the centre of midfield for our memorable League Cup odyssey under Gus Poyet in 2014.
He was released by Sunderland when we were relegated under David Moyes in 2017, which coincided with the end of his contract. Larsson went on to play one further season in England with Hull City before returning to his homeland with AIK, where he won the Swedish national championship in 2018.
The Swedish international is now a veteran at 36 years old, but still has a bucket load of class and will almost certainly be on the right wing for the Euro 2020 game against Poland tomorrow. So good luck for the rest of the tournament - Wearside still loves you, Seb!