A rash of big-name signings has stirred up interest in Sweden in the run-up to the new season; Sujay Dutt reckons it is a sign the Allsvenskan is on the up.
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The Allsvenskan has traditionally been a place for stars in transition; a division that clubs from Europe's big leagues come to when looking for emerging players. However, ahead of the 2015 season, Sweden's top-flight teams are making headlines for incoming, rather than outgoing, talent.
Diego Lugano (BK Häcken)
With little over a week to go until their 2015 curtain-raiser, the side from the Gothenburg suburbs announced perhaps the biggest Allsvenskan signing since Henrik Larsson returned home to Helsingborgs IF in summer 2006. Captain of Uruguay at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, Diego Lugano's European CV includes Fenerbahçe SK and Paris Saint-Germain, but the 34-year-old centre-back is eager for playing time in the run-up to this summer's Copa América in Chile.
Sporting director Sonny Karlsson realised Häcken were making waves when he saw the look of incredulity on his son's face upon hearing the club were on the verge of recruiting Lugano. "I probably didn't understand just how big he is, but the kids who play computer games, they know," said Karlsson. The defender, meanwhile, is looking forward to an adventure on the island of Hisingen. "This is a young team which seems to have a good structure, it's a club with ambition," he noted. "I feel welcome."
Dickson Etuhu (AIK Solna)
Initially a trainee with Manchester City FC, midfielder Etuhu represented Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup and was a losing UEFA Europa League finalist with Fulham FC the same year. The 32-year-old also played in the Premier League with Sunderland AFC, yet arrived in Stockholm at the turn of the year as a free agent, having spent last season with Blackburn Rovers FC.
Coming to the Allsvenskan might look like a step down, but that is not how Etuhu sees it. "A lot of people thought I was mad to choose Sweden," he admitted. "Sure, I had other offers – from Turkey and England, both in the Premier League and the Championship – but I wanted to win something and was ready to take a cut in my wages for that chance."
Viktor and Rasmus Elm (Kalmar FF)
When Kalmar landed their only Allsvenskan title in 2008, the Elm brothers – David, Viktor and Rasmus – played a big part. They promptly caught the eyes of bigger, foreign sides and soon packed their bags for Fulham, sc Heerenveen, AZ Alkmaar and PFC CSKA Moskva, among others. David came back to Kalmar in summer 2013, Rasmus joined him in January and finally Viktor completed the return of the prodigal sons on 30 March.
"Of course, David and Rasmus, as well as my Kalmar heart, were factors in my decision to come home," said Viktor Elm, 29, insisting he is now a far stronger player. "In terms of passing ability and technique, I'm better than when I left. And if I'm as physically strong as I think, I will be able to run as much as I did in 2008."