CELTIC assistant manager Johan Mjallby will leave the club at the end of the season to “seek some different opportunities”.
The Parkhead club announced the surprise move late yesterday and stated the search for a replacement for the Swede had already begun.
Although the timing may have been unexpected, Mjallby going his own way following four years as Neil Lennon’s right-hand man comes only a matter of weeks after the 43-year-old told a newspaper in his homeland that it would “excite” him to “lead” his own team in the country.
The former central defender also said he could “imagine” coaching within the Swedish national set-up, or with his boyhood club AIK.
Mjallby first joined the Glasgow club more than 15 years ago after they paid £1.5 million to AIK for him in October 1998. A find of then manager Jozef Venglos, it was as a defensive mainstay under Martin O’Neill that he claimed three titles, before moving to Spnaish side Levante in the summer of 2004. When Lennon was made interim manager in March 2010 following the removal of Tony Mowbray, he immediately recruited his former team-mate as his No 2, and the pair have now presided over a run of three straight league triumphs. A popular figure among the support, Mjallby reflected on this relationship and the high points savoured in Scotland in a statement on the club website yesterday.
“I have enormous affection for Celtic Football Club and it is with sadness that the time to leave has arrived. However, I now leave to seek some different opportunities,” he said. “The club has been part of my life for almost two decades and I have been dedicated to them in every way, first of all as a player and then in management.
“As a player, it was a time when we achieved great success and I had the privilege to work with football people and players who were first class and real quality. We had some great moments and memories I will always cherish.
“It was an honour to return to the club and work in management with Neil, Garry [Parker] and the players, and we have worked hard over the last few years to once again bring the club success. I hope Neil, the staff and the players can deliver many more trophies and titles for our fans in the future. I would like to sincerely thank all our supporters for all they have given me and everything they have given to the club. They are special fans, the best I have ever seen in football.”
As a summer league, the Swedish top flight where it is expected that Mjallby will seek to move into frontline management is currently only five weeks old. The fact that the
49-times capped Swede has now signalled his availability for a head coach position in that set-up – where Henrik Larsson is toiling in charge of newly-promoted Falkenbergs FF – is sure to put him in the minds of any clubs that feel moved to address poor starts to the season by considering their coaching structures.
Mjallby cutting his ties with Celtic, meanwhile, can only but further fuel speculation that the Lennon management era at the Scottish champions could soon be coming to a close. It is understood that the Irishman would be willing to take on the vacancy at Norwich City with which he has recently being linked, irrespective of whether the Carrow Road club can preserve their English Premier League status in the coming weeks.
Lennon yesterday paid tribute to his faithful lieutenant in the most glowing terms.
“I will be very sad to see Johan leave the club,” the Celtic manager said. “He has given us such great service over a number of years and he will always be a big part of Celtic. When I was given the chance to be in charge of the team, Johan was the obvious choice to join me in tackling the challenges ahead and from day one, he has been a very important part of our success.
“He was always respected by players and our supporters, who knew how committed he was to Celtic. Johan is a great man and will always be a great friend. I know whatever challenge Johan chooses next, he will be a great success and I wish him and his family nothing but good fortune for the future.”
It is unlikely that there will be any rush to seek a replacement for Mjallby with Celtic merely fulfilling fixtures in their four remaining Premiership games, and Lennon’s first-team coaching staff also comprising one-time Leicester team-mate Garry Parker and former Celtic captain Danny McGrain.