Martin Dahlin always was good with his head. But where he once used it to guide footballs past goalkeepers, now the former Sweden striker employs it to guide young footballers hopeful of forging careers as fulfilling as Dahlin's own.
Dahlin, one of the stars of Sweden's third-placed finish at USA 94 , is now working as a football agent, a job chosen, he tells FIFAworldcup.com, to allow him to remain in the sport which brought him such satisfaction as a player. "I wanted to stay in football and I didn't fancy becoming a manager," says Dahlin. "It was a good way to stay in contact with football and to work with footballers."
A back injury sustained at 29 was responsible for bringing a premature end to a career which took Dahlin from Malmo, where he first made his mark as the Swedish league's leading scorer in 1988, to clubs in Germany, Italy and England.
It is between England and Spain that Dahlin divides most of his time today he has homes in London and Andalusia and the principal focus of that time is his player agency, MDM. "I mostly represent Scandinavian players Swedish, Danish and Norwegian players and some German players also," he says.
Among his clients is Markus Rosenberg, the Malmo and Sweden striker, who, he says, "is probably going to leave Sweden in the summer to go to a really big club". He predicts bright futures for two other young Swedes: Fredrik Berglund, "currently the leading scorer in Denmark" with Esbjerg, and the Austria Vienna-based Mikael Antonsson, "a big strong central defender".
Dahlin also has a foot in the world of fashion, having lent his name to a range of leisure wear that sells across Scandinavia. "Twice a year I choose the selections together with the designer," he says. And then there are his occasional commitments as a football commentator. Dahlin was present at the 2002 FIFA World Cup working for Swedish broadcaster TV4 and was spotted in the media room at one Japanese venue kicking his bag with excitement at the television pictures of Sweden's elimination of highly fancied Argentina.
Form in the USA
Of course, it does not seem all that long ago that Dahlin himself was drawing emotional reactions from FIFA World Cup viewers. After all, he may have totalled 29 goals in 60 appearances for Sweden but it was his form in the USA that earned him fame across the football world.
Dahlin, then 26, struck four goals in five appearances as Sweden produced their best finals display since finishing runners-up on home turf in 1958. They had reached the UEFA European Championship semi-finals two years previously and now, as Dahlin observes, were at their peak.
"We had a lot of players who were at their best age, a lot of players who had left Sweden quite early. We had one big tournament where we played together in 1992 and also of course everybody stayed fit and we didn't have any major injuries during the tournament. Our manager, Tommy Svensson, was able to make us all perform at our best."
Citing the squad's key players, he continues: "At the back we had Patrick Andersson who after that tournament went on to play for Bayern Munich and Barcelona. In midfield Jonas Thern played in Serie A and there was also Tomas Brolin, of course. And I have to mention myself and Kennet Andersson in the attack."
Sweden opened the tournament against Cameroon, Dahlin earning a point with a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw. He claimed two more goals in the 3-1 victory over Russia that followed, his first a low, angled header into the corner and the second a flying header into the roof of the net from Kennet Andersson's cross. "Scoring two goals against Russia I was brought down for a penalty as well was one of the highlights for me personally," he says.
Absent from the final group match against Brazil through suspension, Dahlin scored the opener in the Swedes' 3-1 second-round defeat of Saudi Arabia. A penalty shootout win then took them past Romania and on to a semi-final against Brazil, which ended in defeat.
Dahlin sat out the subsequent play-off for third place against Bulgaria through injury, meaning he finished one goal shy of team-mate Kennet Andersson, and two short of joint-top scorers Hristo Stoitchkov and Oleg Salenko. The Swede notes: "People ask me what would have happened if I'd played in all the games. Maybe if I'd played those two extra matches I'd have had the chance to score another two or three goals and finish as the top scorer.
"But I don't think about those things because I had a friend, Jan Eriksson, who was injured two weeks before the World Cup and didn't play a single game, so I am very pleased with what I achieved. The whole experience of being at the World Cup and being successful and scoring goals was unbelievable."
If that was the highlight of his international career, Dahlin's best days in club football came with Germany's Borussia Monchengladbach. "We had players like Patrick Andersson and Stefan Effenberg - we had a really strong team," he recalls. "In 1992 we reached the German Cup final, in 95 we got there again and we won it."
But the leaving of Monchengladbach proved less happy. With his contract expiring he agreed personal terms with Juventus only for Monchengladbach to demand a fee, citing a clause in Dahlin's contract allowing for an automatic 12-month extension. "I was pretty sure they would agree and so turned down offers from other clubs Bayern Munich and Fiorentina and other clubs around Europe," he remembers. "I had this signed agreement but they couldn't agree and at the last minute Roma came in."
Dahlin wore the Roma shirt only three times during a six-month stay in 1996/97. His first-team chances limited by competition from four other strikers, he wanted regular football and so asked to return on loan to Monchengladbach, where he scored ten goals in 20 matches. Then, in summer 1997, he joined Blackburn Rovers in England.
Within six months, however, he had suffered his ultimately career-ending injury. After leaving Blackburn he returned briefly to the Bundesliga with Hamburg before accepting he could no longer play on. "I was 30 years old when I retired but I am very grateful for everything that I was allowed to experience," he says.
If USA 94 was his finest hour, he now wishes similar success on the present Sweden side in Germany next year. Underlining the quality in their ranks, he says: "You have (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, you have (Fredrik) Ljungberg, experienced players who are still quite young and at their peak. (Olof) Mellberg, too. They have a good mix."
There is also Henrik Larsson, a veteran of USA 94, who, at 33, is freshly recovered from a serious knee injury. "I talked to him a couple of weeks ago and he is confident that he will be back to his best. And if he is fit as well, then the team will be even stronger," Dahlin says.
"I am pretty sure they will qualify but then they will have to change the tactics a little bit if they want to be successful in the World Cup. Because sometimes they play a little bit too cautiously - sometimes they have to take a few more risks and give talents like Ibrahimovic and Ljungberg more freedom."
Click here to view Sweden's results and statistics from USA 94.
First name: Martin
Date of birth: April 16, 1968
Place of birth: Lund, Sweden
Playing career: Malmo (Sweden), Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany), Roma (Italy), Blackburn Rovers (England), Hamburg (Germany)
International caps: 60
International goals: 29
FIFA World Cup
Third place in 1994 (Five appearances and four goals)
UEFA European Championship
- Semi-finals in 1992
Winner with Malmo in 1988
Winner with Malmo in 1989
Winner with Monchengladbach in 1995