Exclusive Interview : Michael Almebäck

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR  "Morning Michael, thanks for slipping away to talk to me at TSF.  They say you should never go back, but football makes its own rules!  You've returned to Örebro SK for a second spell at the club. How are you enjoying being back?

MA '' I am really enjoying my time here at Örebro SK. As you say I was here before i signed for a second time in 2016 having first played here from 2009 to 2011.  Örebro SK is my second home in Sweden.  I am from Stockholm and I think that Örebro SK are a small club in Sweden compared to other clubs in Europe but we have a good fanbase and it is also a nice town. Örebro SK are one of the nicest clubs that you can play for in Sweden which is why I've been able to make over 100 appearances for Örebro SK since my return."

JR   "Sandwiched between your two stints with Orebro SK were two seasons with Belgium giants Club Brugge.  How do you remember your time there?

MA  "I arrived at Club Brugge in 2011 and it was great to sign for such a big club in Europe, by Swedish standards anyway.  Club Brugge were playing in the Europa League and the Champions League and they have also won a lot of domestic titles.  It was a nice feeling to be brought in but my time in Belgium was full of up's and down's.  We had four Head Coaches - and also two assistant coaches that became Head Coaches.  So I had six Head Coaches in two years.  It was kind of hectic but I still managed to play 60 games in total and I am happy with my time at the club. 

Although it did not end on perfect terms, I have learned during my football experience that sometimes you just have to accept your fate, and sometimes it is not up to you to decide what your future will be.  I have nothing but good memories from my time at Club Brugge.  In fact  one amazing football memory that stands out is when we played NK Maribor of Slovenia away from home in the Europa League.  We were losing 3-0 with 12 minutes to go but we won the game 4-3.  

But after the game I was interviewed by a foreign journalist investigating potential match fixing. I did not feel anything like that in the game, we just crushed them down and scored four goals.  It was a strange time for a couple of years afterwards, and later they called to ask about my feeling during that game.  The game was brought to light when they made a documentary about betting in football and this game was brought to their attention because there were a lot of large sums of money that were placed on it"

JR '' You played three seasons for arguably the biggest club in Denmark in Brøndby IF. How do you look back on your time at the club?

MA '' Most of all Brøndby IF are a big club and it was not such a big difference from going from Club Brugge to Brøndby IF apart from maybe less fans in the stadium. I had a great time in Denmark.  Sometimes in football you can play every game and things are going well, and then you are on the bench and you don't feel so well mentally.  But then you get back in the team and you play again, it is always a lot of up's and down's. I played a lot in the beginning of my time at the club and later I went on loan to Esbjerg fB for a season.  Every part of my career, I look back and feel maybe I could have done more, but I am still very proud. I played a lot of games in both Belgium and Denmark so I have a lot of nice memories and I met a lot of good people along the way ''

JR ''I think every single player feels they could have done something more, that's the winning mentality coming out!  And you have been capped by Sweden, to that end, I think I know which player you're going to say as the best you've played with....''

MA ''Ha ha!  Yes. I played a couple of games for the Swedish national team and for sure Zlatan Ibrahimović is arguably the best player I ever played with. I did not get the fortune to play a game with him but I trained with him a couple of times, and he is at the top along with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.  That said, he really is one of a kind.  At Club Brugge I played with Carlos Bacca who went on to play for Sevilla FC, AC Milan and Villarreal CF.  He arrived at Club Brugge for three million euros from Colombian team Atlético Junior, and in his first six months he was absolutely terrible and everyone wondered what he was doing there.  But suddenly he exploded and scored 25 goals, two seasons in a row.  And then he was sold. I also played with Thomas Meunier at Club Brugge, he plays for Borussia Dortmund now. I also played with Nabil Dirar at Club Brugge and he currently plays in Turkey for Fenerbahçe. Club Brugge sold him to AS Monaco, he was also a really strong player ''

JR ''Amazing.  I can also imagine that in your position as a defender you have played against many difficult opponents through the years?''

MA ''For sure!  When I played for Club Brugge we played against Standard Liège, and they had a young Michy Batshuayi who was really strong.  And also playing against KRC Genk who had Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Benteke in the same eleven, those games in particular were very tough. They were not the big stars at the time but you could see that they had great quality.  RS Anderlecht had a striker called Dieumerci Mbokani who is currently playing for Royal Antwerp in Belgium, he was just such a strong opponent and very hard to play against''

JR  ''Michael, thank you so much for talking to me at TSF today.  I'm going to push my luck with one final question.  Who are the people that have meant the most to your development as a professional footballer? ''

MA ''Wow.  Ok... the first manager I think about is the Finnish coach, Sixten Boström.  I have to mention him because when I arrived at Örebro SK he was the one who gave me a chance. I was actually on the point of maybe quitting professional football and going to play at a lower level while working a normal job like everyone else.  So when Örebro SK gave me a chance thanks to Sixten Boström's belief in me, I got to play a lot of games, and that is what eventually brought me to the Swedish national team.  It also brought me to Club Brugge in Belgium and Brøndby in Denmark.  

I think football wise Sixten Boström meant the most to me, but also my current coach at Örebro, Axel Kjäll.  He is a young coach who took over from our former coach Alexander Axén, and he has a lot of potential for development in the coaching world.  He has been a great coach so far.  In Belgium I had a lot of different types of coaches and not all of them were positive, but every coach affects you in some way and you learn a bit from everyone even if it is not all positive all the time.  But I would say mostly Sixten Boström, just because of the chance and belief he gave me from coming from almost absolutely nothing!'' 


James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.