Ahead of the 2012 season in Sweden, which begins this weekend, much of the focus has been on the revolution at big-spending IFK Göteborg.
Of their plethora of signings the most intriguing is the new coach, Mikael Stahre, the man who famously won the league and cup double with AIK Solna in 2009, edging out IFK in both competitions.
The most successful club in Sweden with 18 league titles, two UEFA Cups and several impressive UEFA Champions League runs to their name, IFK finished a disappointing seventh in 2011. 'Blåvitt' were not even the best team in the city – BK Häcken (6th) and GAIS Gothenburg (5th) finished ahead of them.
Unsurprisingly, changes were made. Coach Jonas Olsson, the winner of four league championships with IFK as player and one as trainer, left after four years in charge. His replacement – Stahre, a Stockholmer with deep-rooted connections with AIK, IFK's fierce rivals – raised eyebrows. Stahre's new team face Syrianska FC on Sunday as IFK begin their bid to win the title for the first time in five years.
The 36-year-old Stahre, who joined AIK as a youth coach in 1998, masterminded the capital club's double triumph of three years ago when they met IFK on last day of the Allsvenskan season in what was essentially a winner-takes-all encounter. Stahre's team prevailed 2-1 at the Gamla Ullevi to take the title and a week later also defeated IFK in the cup final.
Following a disappointing six-month spell in Greece with Panionios GSS in 2010, Stahre is raring to go at IFK, saying this week: "IFK Göteborg's ambition is crystal clear: to reach the top three and qualify for Europe."
In order to do so creative midfielders Daniel Sobralense (Kalmar FF), Gerzić (Örebro SK) and Pontus Farnerud (Stabaek Fotball) have been recruited. It will be a first taste of the Allsvenskan for former Swedish international Farnerud, whose senior career to date has been spent abroad with AS Monaco FC, RC Strasbourg and Sporting Clube de Portugal before he joined Stabaek in 2008.
The goalkeeping position has been strengthened with the signing from Örebro of John Alvbåge, born and raised in Gothenburg and a part of IFK's squad in 2005. Another local, Tobias Hysén, will be counted on to score the goals as usual. Recently appointed team captain, Hysén has the added motivation of trying to secure a place in Sweden's UEFA EURO 2012 squad.
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