There’s something healthy when the arrival of a new striker, who has yet to trouble the net, has raised the game of an incumbent. If you talk to footballers they’ll tell you they need to be challenged. Even most greats hit a comfort zone, where they know they are cherished by manager and fans alike, so that knot in the stomach about where the next contract is coming from never materialises.
Gary Hooper missed this at Celtic. He was the apple of Neil Lennon’s eye, and clearly top striker at Celtic, but a few seasons in his appetite for the same old challenge seemed to wane. I’m assured by those who shared a dressing room with Henrik Larsson, this was one area which set the Swede aside. The accolades meant nothing to him, he wanted every trophy, every record, which perhaps indicates why he captured the Champions League in his mid-30s.