Friday, May 05, 2006

The best ever - # 6. Rúnar Kristinsson

Dino Baggio is god! continues his review of the best ever Icelandic footballers:

6. Rúnar Kristinsson - One of my favourite ever players. As a 17-year-old he made his international debut and was one of the best players playing in Iceland. Kristinsson was however 25-year-old when he finally tried his luck abroad in 1994. He started his professional career with Swedish club Örgryte as a creative midfielder. Following two seasons in Sweden he changed clubs and signed for Norwegian side Lilleström. He quickly became one of the best players in the Norwegian Premiership (Tippeligaen). In 1999 he was voted the best player in the league by his fellow professionals. He was without a doubt a great midfielder and provided Icelandic striker Heidar Helguson (now at Fulham) with many goalscoring chances at Lilleström when they were teammated there for a brief time.

After four succesful years in Norway Kristinsson joined Belgian Premiership side Lokeren and tried out in a new position; as a striker. He is still playing for Lokeren as a 37-year-old and is still the clubs best player and is considered a god by the Lokeren supporters. If we compare his international career to other great Icelandic players, he’s probably the best ever. Kristinsson played about 100 international and two games stand out during that illustrious career. A magnificent performance against France in 1998 where he overshadowed the best player in the world Zinedine Zidane and the performance against Italy in 2004; an outstanding performance which steered Iceland to a 2-0 win over Italy.

What seperates Rúnar from many other Icelandic players who have played abroad is the fact that he has never been a benchwarmer. He made wise choices during his career by not joining big clubs with lots of money instead he joined clubs where he was guranteed playing time and the platform to be the star of the team. Icelandic footballers tend to think they are bigger than they really are. For example, Arnar Gunnlaugsson was one of the best players in the English Championship with Bolton in 1999 having scored 13 goals in 27 league games and when Premiership side Leicester came knocking on his door he jumped at the chance. He never made an impact at Leicester and was usually used as a sub. Since then his career has gone downhill and he hasn’t played decent football for years. The same thing can be said of Thordur Gudjonsson. He was voted the best player in Belgium in the late nineties but wasted his career with bad decisions following his departure from Lokeren.

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