Mikael Forssell’s five-year career at Birmingham City is over after the Finland international rejected the offer of a new deal at St Andrew’s to move back to Germany and sign for Bundesliga side Hannover 96.
Hannover, who finished eighth in the Bundesliga last season, announced they had signed the 27-year-old on a free transfer after he was reportedly offered a new deal on reduced wages following Birmingham’s relegation to the Championship.
Forssell, who was born in Steinfurt in Germany, almost joined Hannover last summer in a £1?million deal but the transfer collapsed after the Germans opted for an initial loan period before completing the transfer, which wasn’t to then Blues boss Steve Bruce’s liking.
Forssell’s departure will be another body blow for the Birmingham supporters who are already trying to recover from a second relegation from the Premier League in three years.
The Finn had become a big terrace hero after his sensational impact when he first arrived from Chelsea, who had snapped him up as a promising 17-year-old, on loan during the 2003-04 season and scored 19 goals in all competitions.
However, since that season his career at Blues has been blighted by injury. Shortly after returning for a second season on loan he suffered the second serious knee injury of his career and missed almost the entire season.
The injury cast a big shadow over his future and a move to Everton fell through in the summer of 2005, rumoured to be because he had failed a medical. However, that did not stop Bruce spending £3 million to bring Forssell to St Andrew’s on a three-year contract in 2005 but he struggled to rediscover his fitness and the goalscoring form that he had displayed during his initial loan spell.
Despite his popularity, it is fair to say that Forssell did not prove to be a successful investment as he played only 65 league games in those three years and scored only 13 league goals, 18 in all competitions.
Hopes were raised that he was fit and firing at the start of last season when he scored the opening goal of the season with a header at Chelsea but he soon found himself in and out of Bruce’s side once more.
He did show glimpses of the old Forssell after the arrival of Alex McLeish and he became the first Blues player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League when he fired a treble in the 4-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in March.
His injury problems have certainly curtailed what looked like being a meteoric career and after the impressive start to his association with Blues, many at St Andrew’s wondered whether the club could keep him.
Despite his injuries and his poor goalscoring record since his permanent signing, there is no doubt Forssell was a fantastic talent when he was fit and he certainly had the capability to score goals from nothing.
It is arguable he would have scored many more goals in a Blues shirt had the team’s style of play under Bruce been more tailored to match his own abilities. Too often Forssell was used as a targetman-style striker because of his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play.
McLeish certainly rated Forssell and gave him a prolonged spell of games as Blues unsuccessfully fought relegation. He finished the season as Blues’ top goalscorer with nine goals and McLeish was hopeful of keeping him.
However, Forssell had hinted on several occasions that he may favour a move away from St Andrew’s and Hannover’s sporting director Christian Hochstatter knew the player’s capabilities well after Forssell’s successful loan spell at Hochstatter’s former club Borussia Monchengladbach in 2003.