Byline: STEPHEN MCGOWAN
STEPHEN McGOWAN finds even Celtic's players are in awe of their No.7
FOOTBALL Larsson deserves to be ranked alongside Henry and van Nistelrooy NEIL LENNON has named his new cat Moto but could just as easily have settled for the moniker Henrik, in honour of a striker he labels among the very best.
With a feline spring in his jump and the agility of a jungle predator, Larsson is, according to his midfield team-mate, up there with the greatest exponents of the scoring art.
Thierry Henry, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Dennis Bergkamp may be the ones feted among those who wouldn't know a Scottish football match from a game of shinty but, according to a man well versed in the ways of the Premiership, the soon-to-depart Swede's confidence in his ability has always been well-placed.
'Henrik is as good as any I've seen on the pitch,' insisted Lennon.
'Maybe I'm getting more of a complete view of him - I haven't seen Henry or van Nistelrooy up close, or Andy Cole in his prime.
'At Leicester in 1998, I played against Bergkamp and he was the best thing I'd ever seen on a football pitch at that time. But Henrik's all-round game, goalscoring ability and awareness is as good as anyone's I've witnessed.
Lennon is far more intelligent than his opponents would have us believe and is not one to sprinkle his compliments around with careless abandon. So his sincerity was not in question when he added: 'Great strikers still pop up with a goal even on their off-days.
Henrik has done that for us so many times. Not just against the Partick Thistles, he has scored really big goals for us. So I put him among the greats.'
Players of a more sensitive makeup may have demanded a rest in the face of the relentless pressure Larsson has weathered of late in the absence of attack allies Chris Sutton, John Hartson and Shaun Maloney.
Even with the immense weight of scoring responsibility resting on the Swede's shoulders, his team-mates see little evidence of a chink in the armour. Asked if Larsson might steal the show in the Nou Camp this week, Lennon said: 'I wouldn't write him off against anybody. The game that stands out for me most is the UEFA Cup Final.
'I was looking at his body language before the game that night and he was so up for it. When we really needed a lift, he pulled out all the stops, scoring two really good goals.
His all-round game was fantastic on the big stage - a measure of the kind of player he is.
'Even in training, he's always looking to improve all areas of his game. He is one of the best headers of a ball I've seen and his timing is impeccable. …