In Memoriam: Remembering Gunnar Nordahl

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the death of the Swedish goal machine.

By Nick Boffa

Gunnar Nordahl in the famous AC Milan strip.

Gunnar Nordahl arrived in Milan from his homeland in 1949. His transfer from Swedish club Norköpping marked the beginning of a great love affair between the player and his adopted home. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Nordahl’s death and another opportunity for football fans to appreciate his enormous talent.

Nordahl, powerfully built and standing 185cm, arrived in Milan to take his place in one of the most legendary Rossonero teams to grace the San Siro. The Swede played alongside domestic giants including Lorenzo Buffon and Cesare Maldini and was the catalyst for the arrival of his compatriots Gunnar Gren and Nils Liedholm – together they formed the accomplished Gren-No-Li trio – a devastating all-Swedish strike force. Nordahl took Italian football by storm and although he arrived with a growing reputation as a prolific scorer in Sweden, his time in Italy saw him achieve greatness.

Affectionately known as Il Pompiere for his work as a firefighter in Sweden, Nordahl spent seven years in the red and black. He won two scudetti but it was the individual accolades to which he really helped himself. The Swede still sits atop Milan’s scoring records and is the highest scoring foreigner in the history of Serie A football.

This puts him at third overall in the league scoring records, behind the legendary Francesco Totti and Silvio Piola. However, Nordahl does hold the venerated title of pluricapocannoniere, bestowed upon the holder of the most top-scorer (capocannoniere) titles; Nordahl won it a staggering five times. His record haul of 35 league goals in a season was eventually broken by Gonzalo Higuain in 2015-16.

Nordahl was equally prolific for his country as he bagged himself 43 goals in just 33 appearances for Sweden. His international success included taking gold at the 1948 Olympics, in a team also featuring his two brothers, Bertil and Kurt.

Following his runaway success with the Rossoneri, the Swede made his way to Roma for a further two seasons including a stint as player-manager. Nordahl moved into management back in Scandinavia after hanging up the boots and his son, Thomas, followed in his illustrious footsteps (even taking in a spell at Juventus).

Nordahl passed away on September 15th in Alghero, Italy. Such is his status as a legend in Milan, that when Andriy Shevchenko scored his 100th goal for Milan, many older supporters acknowledged his achievement by also noting he was less than halfway to eclipsing their beloved Gunnar.     

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