Gunnar Gren

Gunnar Gren

Gunnar Gren at the 1958 World Cup
Personal information
Full name Johan Gunnar Gren
Date of birth 31 October 1920
Place of birth Gothenburg, Sweden
Date of death 10 November 1991(1991-11-10) (aged 71)
Place of death Gothenburg, Sweden
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position Forward, Attacking midfielder
Youth career
Silverkällans IK
BK Strix
Lindholmens BK
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1937–1940 Gårda BK 54 (16)
1941–1949 IFK Göteborg 168 (79)
1949–1953 A.C. Milan 133 (38)
1953–1955 AC Fiorentina 55 (5)
1955–1956 Genoa CFC 29 (2)
1956–1957 Örgryte IS 4 (0)
1963–1964 GAIS 22 (2)
1976 IK Oddevold 1 (0)
National team
1940–1958 Sweden 57 (32)
Teams managed
1952 A.C. Milan
1956–1959 Örgryte IS
1960 IFK Göteborg
1961 Juventus F.C.
1963–1964 GAIS
1965–1966 IFK Värnamo
1967 Redbergslids IK
1968–1969 GAIS
1970 Skogens IF
1973 Fässbergs IF
1976 IK Oddevold

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Johan Gunnar Gren (31 October 1920 – 10 November 1991)[1] was a Swedish football player and coach. He is best known for playing for IFK Gothenburg and A.C. Milan. A creative forward, known for his technical skill, vision, tactical intelligence, and passing ability as a playmaker, he was part of the famous "Gre-No-Li" trio of forwards at Milan and the Swedish national team, and was also capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or even as a striker.[2] Gren has won numerous awards including an Olympic Gold Medal in 1948, Guldbollen in 1946, and was a part of the 1958 Swedish National Team that took second place. Gren is considered to be one of Sweden's greatest and most prolific football players; a statue has been erected in his honor outside of Gamla Ullevi stadium.

Early years

Gren was born on 31 October 1920 to parents Johan Olsson and Gerda Maria Olsson. Gren, a son of a carpenter, grew up in Majorna, Gothenburg.[3] From a young age, Gren excelled in football. On 7 October 1934, Gothenburg Football Association President Carl "Ceve" Linde held a juggling contest. He won his first sporting prize – a bronze plaque. Göteborgs Sport Bladet wrote about 13-year-old Gren's skills and how he outshone some of the big boys in the national league. The then, 13-year-old Gren played for Bollklubben Strix.[3] During his youth, he played for Lindholmens BK and GAIK before playing Gårda BK.

Club career

Gårda BK

In 1937 he started playing for Gårda BK. He made his Allsvenskan debut on 1 May 1938 against Malmö FF which resulted in a scoreless draw. During his time there, he played a total of 54 matches scoring 16 goals.[4]

IFK Göteborg

In 1941, he was recruited by IFK Gothenburg. During his time in the club, Gren won one national championships in the 1941/42 season and was top scorer in 1947. He won the first ever Guldbollen in 1946.[5] His first league match for IFK was in August 1941, IFK played against Gårda BK winning 6–1 with Gren scoring the first goal. His last game for IFK was on 6 June 1949 versus IFK Norrköping at Gamla Ullevi in which Gothenburg lost 0–1. He had played 164 matches for IFK and scored 78 goals.

A.C. Milan

On 11 September 1949, he debuted for A.C. Milan against Sampdoria, with Milan winning 1–3. During his time with Milan, he became the 'Gre' part of the famous Gre-No-Li trio with his Swedish teammates Gunnar Nordahl ('No') and Nils Liedholm ('Li').[6] He also earned the nickname the "Il Professore" which is Italian for "the professor".[7] While at A.C. Milan, he won the league title for the 1950/51 season. He made 133 appearances in Serie A and scored 38 goals.[8] Gren also managed AC Milan in 1952 before moving to AC Fiorentina.

AC Fiorentina/Genoa CFC/ Örgryte IS

In 1953, Gren moved to AC Fiorentina where he made 55 appearances and scored 5 goals. Then in 1955, Gren moved to Genoa CFC where he made 29 appearances and 2 goals.[8] Tired of Italy, Gren decided to move back to Sweden. In 1956, Gren returned to Gothenburg where he joined Örgryte IS as both player and manager. Gren left in 1959 and played for GAIS in 1963.[9]

International career

Gre-No-Li playing for A.C. Milan, 1950

Gren made his debut for Sweden on 29 August 1940 in the team's 3–2 win over Finland. During the next decade he played 40 matches for the national team, ending in 1949 with 3–1 against Ireland in a World Cup qualifier and 2–2 in a friendly against Hungary. During this era Gren was part of the team that won the gold medal in the 1948 Olympics in London, scoring twice against Yugoslavia in the final on Wembley.[1]

As a professional, Gren was suspended from the Swedish national team. However, as the World Cup of 1958 was to be played on home soil and the Swedish team seemed too weak for the competition, the Swedish Football Association changed this rule, and Gren, having now ended his professional career and playing in the Swedish Division 2, was again eligible. Gren went on to be the oldest player of this World Cup, 37 years old, and played an important role in the silver medal winning Swedish team. He played five matches during the World Cup and scored one goal, 2–1 against West Germany in the semi-final. He was also named on the 1958 World Cup All-Star Team.

Gren's last cap came on 26 October 1958 against Denmark in a 4–4 draw. At the time, he was 37 years, 360 days old. In all, Gren made 57 appearances for the national team, scoring 32 goals.


Whilst at A.C. Milan, Gren managed the team in 1952. Also, Gran managed both Örgryte IS and GAIS as player manager. After retiring as a player, Gren managed several teams. Gren became co-manager for Juventus for a brief period in 1961 along with Július Korostelev. Gren then managed for GAIS,[10] IFK Värnamo, Redbergslids IK, Skogens IF, IK Oddevold and Fässbergs IF.


Gren retired from football in the 1970s. He died ten days after his 71st birthday and is buried in Västra Kyrkogården (Western Cemetery), Gothenburg, Västra Götaland, Sweden.

Domestic league statistics

Club Season League
Apps Goals
Gårda 1936–37 10
1937–38 224
1938–39 228
1939–40 94
Göteborg 1940–41 2610
1941–42 229
1942–43 2111
1943–44 168
1944–45 1914
1945–46 2018
1946–47 228
1947–48 211
Milan 1949–50 3718
1950–51 369
1951–52 317
1952–53 294
Fiorentina 1953–54 332
1954–55 232
Genoa 1955–56 3223
Örgryte 1956–57 ??
1957–58 ??
1959 ??
GAIS 1963 202
1964 20
Oddevold[11] 1976 10
Total for Milan 13338
Career totals ??

*Stats do not include 4/0 Latin Cup (for Milan)


Statue of Gunnar Gren outside of (the now demolished and rebuilt) Gamla Ullevi stadium.


IFK Göteborg
A.C. Milan[2]





  1. 1 2 3 Gunnar Gren.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "A.C. Milan Hall of Fame: Gunnar Gren". A.C. Milan. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Aftonbladet sport: Guldbollen".
  4. Gunnar Gren.
  5. Guldbollen.
  6. "Homepage – AC Milan".
  7. Gunnar Gren. IMDb
  8. 1 2 Gunnar Gren.
  9. "GAIS – Spelarinformation för Gunnar Gren". GAIS.
  10. "Välkommen till GAIS".
  11. Oddevolds spelare 1951–2007.
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