He recently just turned 47 years old. He wanted the number 7 shirt when he signed for Liverpool in 2001 because Kenny Dalglish was his idol. However, that number was already being worn by another player. So he asked for 17 and then 27, both which had also been taken by other players. He eventually settled for jersey number 37 that season.
He is cited as the only international footballer to have played in FOUR separate decades for his national team. (He made his debut in 1989 and retired in 2010. Hence, he represented his country in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s).
In the dominant Ajax team of the mid 1990s which won Dutch League titles and a Champions League, there were many stand-out names. These included Edwin van der Sar, Frank and Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids, Finidi George, Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars, Nwankwo Kanu, Patrick Kluivert and their manager, Louis van Gaal.
However, this particular Ajax player was so talented and so idolised, he greatly influenced the name choices of parents of newly born babies. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Jari Litmanen.
Jari is from Finland. For hundreds of years, Dutch people did not have any reason to name their male children ‘Jari‘. Then Jari Litmanen rocked up at Ajax and started doing magical things with a football, and helped inspire Ajax back to the apex of European football. And that was when, as depicted above in a graph showing official records of Dutch names, hundreds of parents started naming their babies after him. A previously non-existent name suddenly became existent in the Netherlands.
Litmanen was a brilliant footballer whose potential was ultimately limited by series of injuries. Apart from the previously mentioned record of playing in four separate decades for Finland, he also holds another European record.
Aged 39, he became the oldest player to score in the qualifiers for an UEFA European championship. His record breaking goal came in an 8-0 win over San Marino. It was his final game for Finland.
For those who never saw him play, do tarry and enjoy this short video of Jari.
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