THE personal relationship between Steve Bruce and Seb Larsson was the key to the Swedish international joining Sunderland this week.
It was Bruce who first launched the 26-year-old midfielder’s career when, as Birmingham City boss, he plucked the youngster from the ranks of Arsenal Reserves five years ago.
And the pair have remained on good terms ever since – Bruce converting a year-long loan in the 2006-07 season into a permanent deal, signing the Swede on a £1m four-year deal which expires this month.
The good relationship did not cloud the manager’s professionalism – he was unprepared in January to pay over the odds for a player available on a Bosman this summer.
But as Larsson considered his options this summer, he could see the value of linking up with his former boss rather than taking the risk of becoming a bit-part player at Arsenal again.
Larsson has been courted by all three of his former bosses this summer – Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Alex McLeish at Aston Villa showing 11th hour interests.
But by then, Larsson had already been convinced about where his future lay and has spoken of his happiness at putting pen to paper this week.
“It feels good,” he said. “All is clear between me and the club,”
“I had other alternatives but it’s great to sign with a club like Sunderland.
“Steve Bruce showed he really wanted me and that’s important.
“Sunderland are building for the future and want to be better than last year.”
Larsson has some versatility in where he can play, but his preferred position is right wing which will suit Sunderland.
Having lost Jordan Henderson to Liverpool this summer Sunderland have a vacancy on the flank and Larsson can fill that role, with Ahmed Elmohamady continuing to offer the club another option.
It is Larsson’s dead-ball capabilities though which the Black Cats will really benefit from, the Scandinavian able to offer a goal threat from free-kicks and also able to cause real danger from corners.
That’s a weapon Sunderland have lacked since the days of Nicky Summerbee and is set to add a whole new dimension to the way Bruce’s side play.