Finland

Number of Finnish Players to have played in the Premier League: 16

Most appearances: Jussi Jaaskelainen (436)

Most goals: Mikael Forssell (34)

Appearances: Jussi Jaaskelainen 436, Sami Hyypia 318, Jonatan Johansson 147, Antti Niemi 143, Mikael Forssell 126, Teemu Tainio 88, Peter Enckelman 54, Shefki Kuqi 50, Aki Riihilahti 31, Jari Litmanen 26, Joonas Kolkka 23, Simo Valakari 20, Mixu Paatelainen 15, Petri Pasanen 12, Hannu Tihinen 8, Toni Kallio 4

Goals: Mikael Forssell 34, Jonatan Johansson 27, Sami Hyypia 22, Shefki Kuqi 7, Jari Litmanen 5, Joonas Kolkka 3, Aki Riihilahti 3, Teemu Tainio 3, Mixu Paatelainen 1, Simo Valakari 1

Assists: Jussi Jaaskelainen 3, Mikael Forssell 3, Teemu Tainio 2, Shefki Kuqi 2, Sami Hyypia 1, Jonatan Johansson 1

Whilst they haven’t enjoyed great success on the international stage, Finland have produced the Premier League with a crop of loyal servants and talented stars during its history. Leading the way is one of the most consistent foreign goalkeepers the league has seen in Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Jaaskelainen came into the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers in 2001 and was a regular stalwart between the goalposts for the Trotters throughout their 11-year spell in the top-flight which ended with relegation in 2012. Jaaskelainen was an intimidating competitor who could produce the spectacular when it came to shot-stopping and this was demonstrated at Old Trafford in October 2001. In Bolton’s shock 2-1 win, Jussi pulled off a remarkable double save which included a point-blank stop from Andy Cole. This finished in the top 10 saves at the 10 Seasons Awards gala back in 2002. Jaaskelainen moved onto West Ham after Bolton’s relegation and finished with a staggering 436 appearances.

Jaaskelainen’s time came at a period where there were a few Finns making their mark on these shores. When it comes to scoring goals for Finland, the leader is Mikael Forssell. Forssell made his debut in 1999 with Chelsea but his goalscoring feats came at Birmingham City. In a fruitful loan spell with the Blues in 2003-2004, he scored 17 goals, exactly 50% of his goalscoring tally in his Premier League career. Had it not been for injuries, Forssell would surely have scored more during his English top-flight days.

Another player who was scoring, though a bit more occasionally at roughly the same time as Forssell was Jonatan Johansson at Charlton Athletic. Johansson spent his entire Premier League time at The Valley, scoring 27 times in 147 appearances in what was the best period of his club career. His debut season was his best campaign, scoring 11 times in 2000-2001 on Charlton’s way to a 9th place finish. A year later, he scored undoubtedly his best goal for the club which was a spectacular overhead kick to rescue a point in an entertaining 4-4 draw with London rivals West Ham United.

Meanwhile on Merseyside, one of the Premier League’s most loyal players was at the heart of the Liverpool FC backline. Sami Hyypia gave up the opportunity of playing Champions League football at Willem II in the Netherlands to come to the Premier League in the summer of 1999. For a decade, he was a colossus for Liverpool, forming a tremendous partnership alongside Stephane Henchoz on the way to Liverpool’s cup treble in the 2000-2001 season. Hyypia scored in three UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the Reds and captained the side for two seasons before passing the armband onto Steven Gerrard as the gentleman he always was in October 2003. LFC fans loved Hyypia’s commitment and this was shown by the touching send-off they gave him in May 2009 when he made his final appearance at Anfield before moving to Bayer 04 Leverkusen. He went on to manage the German side and also Brighton & Hove Albion and whilst management hasn’t quite worked out so far, Hyypia’s place as a Premier League and Liverpool FC icon is assured.

Whilst Hyypia was at Liverpool, he was joined by goalscoring royalty in the form of Jari Litmanen. Litmanen arrived in English football in January 2001 but never quite matched up to his goalscoring feats he’d achieved in the mid-1990s whilst at Ajax. Five goals in 26 appearances was his sum total before returning to his former club in August 2002. Among the other 16 Finnish players to have played in the Premier League include Joonas Kolkka and Aki Riihilahti, who were part of the Crystal Palace side that were relegated in 2005 whilst Peter Enckelman will always be remembered for his horrific own goal in the September 2002 Second City Derby at St Andrew’s whilst at Aston Villa.

There are currently no Finnish players plying their trade in the Premier League but they’ve given the football fans some added flavour and dimension throughout the years.

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