Jari Litmanen on Ajax, Barça and a wrist that ‘broke into eight pieces’

The best footballer Finland has ever produced reflects on the highs and lows of his career and his anonymous life today in Estonia

There are not many people who can get away with a leather jacket. Especially a fur-lined, double-breasted leather jacket. But Jari Litmanen, now 53, is definitely one of those people, as he strolls through the Old Town in his adopted home city of Tallinn. It would be impossible in Finland or Amsterdam but here he walks freely, seemingly just another middle-aged man trying to stay out of the cold. But between 1994 and 1996 he was the best footballer at Ajax, then the best male team in the world. Of course, he was loved for his talent. But he was also loved for the way he kicked the ball, the way he looked. Nineties Litmanen was a vibe, and it turns out the 2024 version isn’t far off.

The Finn doesn’t grant many interviews, certainly not in person. His aloofness has fed the image that he is shy, reserved, mercurial, perhaps even a little arrogant. This is the opposite picture of the person who comes bouncing into the room, who beams comfortably at the camera. Litmanen is generous with his time, polite to all those around him, meticulous with his details. He is also surprisingly funny. Not laugh-a-minute funny, but there is a mischief in his face, a sparkle in those dark eyes. We talk about his recent appearance on the Finnish version of Top Gun, his new Instagram account (in which he shares positive news of Edwin van der Sar’s recovery from serious illness), his acting as an Amsterdam diamond jeweller and comedic timing in Finnish children’s films as a Dutch art dealer and an Italian pizza delivery man.

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