Norway was long considered somewhat of a footballing backwater for quite sometime. Despite giving us the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, John Arne Risse, Jan Age Fjortoft and a few other notable players, the Scandinavian nation who gave us plenty a badass Viking has never truly heavily influenced the beautiful game. In recent years however, Norway has begun to produce more and more talented players who are plying their trade in Europe’s biggest leagues, and one other player I have yet to mention had a big hand in paving the way for those to follow him – Tore Andre Flo.
Now a full Norwegian international, Flo would finally make his big break when moving to Premier League side Chelsea in 1997 for a smallish fee of 300,000 pounds despite being available on a Bosman transfer but having a gentleman’s agreement to not move away from the cash-strapped Brann on a free. It would be at the Stamford Bridge outfit where he would truly make his name, getting double figures in the league in three of his four seasons in London. During this period, Flo would star for his country in France ’98, where Norway upset Brazil in the group stage and reached the round of sixteen.
After losing his role in the first-team at Chelsea when strikers Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen, Flo would request a move away which would find him still in blue, but this time for Scottish giants Rangers in a record breaking 12million pound move that made him the most expensive Norwegian player in history, the most expensive Scottish Premier League player ever, and Rangers’ most expensive signing in their history. Though he would only complete two seasons at Ibrox, Flo would bag 29 goals in 53 league appearances for the club. A return to England would follow, when a 6.75million pound to Sunderland on transfer deadline day was confirmed. Unfortunately for Flo, his time in Scotland would be the peak of his career and the move to Sunderland was the beginning of his rapid decline.
Four goals for the Black cats in his one and only season was not enough to keep him in the North East, and he would move to Serie A side Siena in 2003, but 13 goals in 63 outings was also not deemed good enough. A move back home, to Valerenga in 2005 only saw him again bag 4 (in 24), which prompted a move back to England to Leeds United. Four goals, this time over two seasons (and only 23 appearances), would see him retire from football, only to come back and play one season at MK Dons. After a second spell of retirement, this time for two years, Flo would return to the game yet again for one final season back to where it all began; Sogndal.
Now, finally officially retired from playing, Flo returned to England yet again but this time in a coaching capacity for the club that saw him during his best playing years, Chelsea. Flo has also opened his own footballing academy, the Tore Andre Flo Academy, in partnership with Sean Faulkner – the academy targets children aged 5 to 17 and see’s Flo taking a very active coaching role rather than just running it from an ivory tower.
He may not have been a top class player, but Flo did pave the way for Norwegian players in his wake, and today you can see the likes of Havard Nordtveit, Markus Henriksen, Martin Odegaard, Valon Berisha, Ole Selnaes, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Havard Nielsen, Joshua King and Mats Moller Daehli all on the younger side of their careers and having expectations come with their names.
Being a footballer isn’t always about having the greatest career in the annals of the game, sometimes it’s about trailblazing, and Tore Andre Flo certainly did just that.
Remember to check back in each Friday as we induct another great into the Robin Friday Hipster Hall of Fame. Thank you to Hipster Drew @AFCBvB1410 for this contribution.