In the summer of 1990 Arsenal were preparing for another assault on the old Division One title. After their dramatic last day triumph in May 1989 at Anfield, they were unable to retain their trophy during the 1989/90 season as Liverpool won, what no one would imagine being their last, league title.
Gunners boss George Graham was to make changes to his playing squad as the Scot went in search of a second league success in two years. Arguably one such new face was the catalyst for future foreign stars to arrive through the famous marble halls of Highbury.
Swedish winger Anders Limpar was identified by Graham as a player that could bring pace and creativity to his Arsenal side, and as such the tricky Swede made his biggest move yet since leaving his homeland. After single season spells in Switzerland for Young Boys Bern and Italy for Cremonese, Limpar had the opportunity of major European success in North London.
The Highbury faithful would not wait long to see the pacey wideman cause opposition sides problems as he slotted straight into Graham's team. As one of only two non British or Irish players to appear for Arsenal during the 1990/91 campaign, Limpar was one of the original exciting imports to tantalise Gunners fans.
13 years before their historic 'Invincibles' counterparts, Graham's Arsenal side could have already worn the 'unbeaten season' crown. The Gunners became the 'Almost Invincibles' as by the time they had wrapped up the title, they only lost one game, away at London rivals Chelsea. Limpar was a mainstay in this imposing Arsenal side with his first goal for the club coming against Chelsea in the reverse fixture at Highbury during a 4-1 victory.
The Swede would go on to have his most successful season with the Gunners in his debut year, as he netted 13 times in over 40 appearances in all competitions, with a highlight being his first hat-trick for the club in a 6-1 demolishing of Coventry City at Highbury on the final day of the season; such performances earned him the 1991 Swedish Player of the Year award.
Compared to the following season, Limpar's second year in North London was disappointing for the Gunners as Arsenal exited the old European Cup in the second round, the League Cup in the third round and suffered embarrassment in North Wales in the FA Cup, as Wrexham caused one of competitions biggest upsets in the third round. Arsenal would finish fourth in the last season before the inception of the Premier League, although Limpar continued to play a large part in the North Londoners side, amassing over 30 appearances whilst netting five times.
One of those goals, against Liverpool on the penultimate day of the season, would go on to be voted 38th in an Arsenal poll as greatest Gunners goals. After tackling Ian Rush just inside the oppositions half, from just outside the centre circle, Limpar would instinctively let loose a looping effort after the hapless Mike Hooper in the visitors net. It was a moment of genius from the sublime Scandinavian.
The 1992/93 season would see Arsenal fall even further away from title contention as they finished a disappointing tenth in the first year of the Premier League. Limpar's appearances would dwindle further, making just under 30 appearances, with over a third coming from the substitutes bench. He did score twice during the campaign, although did not make either of Arsenal's lineup for their League Cup and FA Cup triumphs against Sheffield Wednesday.
Arsenal's European success of 1993/94 would be the Swedish winger's last in North London. On transfer deadline day in March 1994, Graham sold Limpar to Everton for £1.6 million, after the Swede appeared 12 times without scoring and seemingly surplus to requirements with Irish wingers Eddie McGoldrick's arrival.
18 years after his departure from Arsenal, Limpar opened up in an 2012 interview in which he described playing under George Graham as "living in Iraq under Saddam". Quite cutting words from the former Gunners hero who added about his sale;
“He sold me in April with my contract running out in May. No talk of extending the contract, just ‘bye bye’. I said I would like to carry on playing for Arsenal and sign a new deal, to which he replied: No you are not.
“So I said I’ve won so many titles in four years for you, is that not enough? So we went in to his office and I had my agent with me and Graham is talking and said he had a really good offer from Manchester City so 'you are going there.’
“So I realised that I was leaving the club, extended my hand to shake his hand and said: ‘Well, thanks for four years then.’ And then he just swivelled round on his chair and stared into the wall. So after four years he did not even shake my hand. We started driving towards Manchester but then we had a phone call from Everton, spoke to them and joined Everton in the end.”
It would appear an acrimonious end to a successful and popular stint in North London, however Limpar was now plying his trade for the Blues of Merseyside.
Similar to his time at Highbury, the Swede would enjoy his most successful period at Goodison Park during his first full season at the club. The 1994/95 campaign would culminate in Everton winning the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory at Wembley against Manchester United, in which Limpar made the starting line-up and played a part in the Toffee's triumph.
Over the next couple of seasons Limpar's appearances tailed off once again and by the time Birmingham City coughed up £100,000 for his services in January 1997, the winger had made over 60 appearances and scored five times for the Merseyside outfit.
The move to the West Midlands was to be an anti-climatic end to his time in England, as he lasted only three months at St Andrews, appearing four times before his contract was swiftly cancelled in April 1997.
In the summer of 1997, Limpar's peak days seemed behind him as he returned to his native Sweden by signing for AIK Solna on a free transfer. Although the now experienced midfielder was reaching the twilight of his career, he achieved further honours with a Swedish Championship title during the 1997/98 campaign for the Stockholm outfit.
He appeared over 20 times, scoring twice for Solna in just under two years before he saw out his top-tier career in February 1999, although unintended, by moving to Major League Soccer side Colorado Rapids. In almost two years in the United States Limpar would feature over 30 times, scoring thrice.
Towards the end of the year 2000, Limpar intended to finish his playing career back in Sweden with Djurgardens. However, seen as a true AIK man he received criticism for joining the Stockholm club's rivals, and as such swiftly moved on to Swedish third division side IF Brommapojkarna, where he first started his successful career. At the age of 37, in November 2002 injury was to finally curtail any hopes of appearing again and the winger retired from playing duties, leaving his stint in America as his final major swan song.
After retiring back in Sweden, Limpar opened his own bar named 'The Limp Bar' in Stockholm. This venture has since ended with the bar closing, however from 2008 until present the former Arsenal-favourite has been a coach at Swedish second division side Sollentuna. Additionally, he has a new venture in the form of his own betting site bestbettoday.com.
Recently Limpar has found his way onto social media and via his social accounts still finds time to support and acknowledge not only the Gunners, but old side Everton too. Just before the hectic Christmas Premiership schedule this season, the Swede made a welcome return to North London as a guest in a half-time interview when Newcastle United visited the Emirates Stadium.
In his prime the nippy Swede accumulated a total of 58 international caps for his country, appearing at the 1990 and 1994 World Cup's, as well as the 1992 European Championships. Limpar was a fans favourite within the Highbury stands and could be seen as a blueprint way back in time of the diminutive, pacey midfielder of modern day Arsenal.