Ståle Solbakken

Ståle Solbakken

Solbakken playing for Lillestrøm in 1996
Personal information
Full name Ståle Solbakken
Date of birth (1968-02-27) 27 February 1968
Place of birth Kongsvinger, Norway
Height 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Copenhagen (manager)
Youth career
0000–1989 Grue
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1989–1994 HamKam 100 (35)
1994–1997 Lillestrøm 99 (34)
1997–1998 Wimbledon 6 (1)
1998–2000 AaB 79 (13)
2000–2001 Copenhagen 14 (4)
Total 298 (87)
National team
1992 Norway U21 2 (0)
1994–2000 Norway 58 (9)
Teams managed
2002–2005 HamKam
2006–2011 Copenhagen
2011–2012 1. FC Köln
2012–2013 Wolverhampton Wanderers
2013– Copenhagen

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

Ståle Solbakken (born 27 February 1968) is a Norwegian former international football player and the current head coach of Danish Superliga side Copenhagen.

During his playing career, Solbakken was named 1995 Norwegian midfielder of the year, and he won the Danish Superliga championship with both Aalborg BK and Copenhagen (in 1999 and 2001 respectively). He played 58 matches and scored nine goals for the Norwegian national team during the end of the 1990s, and represented Norway at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship tournaments. He ended his active career in March 2001 following a heart attack.

As a manager, he was named 2004 Norwegian Manager of the Year, and has won six Danish Superliga championships with Copenhagen. Solbakken was also in charge of German club 1. FC Köln during the 2011–12 season and then managed English side Wolverhampton Wanderers in a six-month tenure.

Club career

Early clubs

Solbakken, a midfielder, started his career in Norway, playing for his local lower league team Grue. After five seasons with Grue he moved to HamKam, a then-second tier club, in 1989.

He was the club's top goalscorer in the 1990 season, where he netted nine times. The following season he scored 14 goals to help the club to promotion to the top-flight Norwegian Premier League. After narrowly avoiding relegation in his first season at the top level, Solbakken was part of the HamKam side that finished 5th in 1993 - a position they have not bettered since.


In 1994 he transferred to their Premier League rivals Lillestrøm where he finished as runner-up in the league during his first season. Although the club finished in fourth during the following campaign, Solbakken's performances saw him win the Kniksen award as the Norwegian Midfielder of the Season.

He was appointed club captain by Lillestrøm and helped the side again finish runners-up in 1996 before he serving one final season in 1997 for the Canaries. In total, he made 99 league appearances for the club, scoring 34 times.

Moves abroad

In October 1997, Solbakken joined English Premier League club Wimbledon for £250,000.[1] In his six league games for Wimbledon, Solbakken scored one goal against West Ham United,[2] and was twice named "man of the match", but he fell out with team manager Joe Kinnear and was banned from club training shortly thereafter.[3]

He was quickly sold to Danish side Aalborg BK in March 1998. Solbakken became Aalborg BK's captain, and guided the club to the 1998–99 Danish Superliga championship, as well as the final of the 1998–99 Danish Cup tournament. He won Danish football's Player of the Year Award in 2000. In total, he played 79 games and scored 13 goals for AaB in the Danish Superliga.[4]

In August 2000, he departed to Danish league rivals Copenhagen. Solbakken quickly became a regular player in the side and helped push them to the top of the table but he was unable to complete the season after suffering a heart attack in March 2001. The club went on to win the 2001 Superliga championship and give Solbakken a second championship medal as a player.

Health Problems

During training on 13 March 2001 Solbakken had a heart attack. He was rapidly attended to by the club doctor Frank Odgaard who found that his heart had stopped beating. He asked a player to call an ambulance and to tell them it was critical, whilst he continued to administer cardiac massage. Upon the ambulance's arrival, Solbakken was pronounced clinically dead at the scene.[5] On the way to the hospital in the ambulance he was revived nearly seven minutes later.

He survived the episode and now has a pacemaker fitted. The heart attack was the result of a previously undetected heart defect.[5] Shortly after, on medical advice, he announced his playing retirement.

International career

Solbakken made his international debut for the Norwegian national team on 9 March 1994, in a 3–1 friendly win in Wales. Although he was not named in the squad for the 1994 World Cup, he became a regular feature in the squad soon after.

He was a member of the Norwegian team that qualified for 1998 World Cup, where he appeared in two of their group games (against Morocco and Scotland) as well as their second round exit to Italy.

His country qualified for the next major tournament, the 2000 European Championship, but Solbakken picked up an injury shortly before the finals. In the end, he was only able to appear in one tournament game: a goalless draw with Slovenia that eliminated them in the group stage. After this exit, he announced his international retirement, aged 32.

In total, he won 58 caps for Norway, scoring nine times.

International goals

Scores and goals list Norway's goal tally first.
# Date Opponent Score Result Venue Competition
1. 2 June 1996  Azerbaijan 1–0 5–0 Ullevaal, Oslo 1998 World Cup qualifier
2. 3–0
3. 1 September 1996  Georgia 1–0 1–0 Ullevaal, Oslo Friendly
4. 29 March 1997  United Arab Emirates 4–1 4–1 Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah Friendly
5. 20 August 1997  Finland 1–0 4–0 Olympic Stadium, Helsinki 1998 World Cup qualifier
6. 10 September 1997   Switzerland 2–0 5–0 Ullevaal, Oslo 1998 World Cup qualifier
7. 6 September 1998  Latvia 1–1 1–3 Ullevaal, Oslo Euro 2000 qualifier
8. 22 January 1999  Estonia 1–0 3–3 Municipal Stadium, Umm al-Fahm Friendly
9. 29 March 2000   Switzerland 1–0 2–2 Cornaredo Stadium, Lugano Friendly

Managerial career


In 2002, Solbakken returned to Norway and started his managerial career at his old club HamKam, positioned at the second tier. He had great success at HamKam, as the club won the league and was promoted to the top-flight Tippeligaen. His "resurrection", and the "salvation" (i.e. promotion) of HamKam, earned him the nickname "Ståle Salvatore", often cited in Norwegian press since.[6]

The next season, Solbakken managed HamKam to a fifth place in the Tippeligaen 2004 season, and he won the 2004 Kniksen award as Norwegian Manager of the Year. In late 2005, Solbakken was named as new manager of another of his former clubs, Copenhagen.


In his first years at the club, Solbakken guided Copenhagen to the 2006 and 2007 Danish Superliga championship, as well as the 2006 Royal League trophy. He managed Copenhagen through to the group stage of the 2006–07 UEFA Champions League, after beating Ajax in the final qualifying round on 23 August 2006. Copenhagen finished last in its group, though they won a meriting 1–0 victory against later semi-finalists Manchester United.

On 16 February 2009, in an interview prior to Copenhagen's Cup tie against Manchester City, Solbakken claimed that Manchester City were "destroying football" with their "incredible sums" of money, referring to Manchester City's bid of over £100 million to sign Kaká.[7] Copenhagen were eventually eliminated by Manchester City on a 3–4 aggregate score.

In May 2009, Solbakken led Copenhagen the Double of both the 2009 Danish Cup and the 2009 Superliga championship, the seventh championship in club history. On 3 November 2009, it was announced that Solbakken would not renew his Copenhagen contract which ended on 30 June 2011.[8] Instead, he agreed a letter of intent to become Norwegian national team manager either in January 2012 or after the Euro 2012, should Norway qualify.[9] However, this agreement was ultimately not to come to fruition.

1. FC Köln

On 15 May 2011 it was announced that Solbakken would take over as manager of 1. FC Köln[10] of the German Bundesliga from sporting director Volker Finke, who acted as interim manager after Frank Schaefer quit during the season.[11] Solbakken had been due to take the Norwegian national team job in January 2012 but Köln bought out his contract for a reported €400,000.[11]

He won his first game in charge, a DFB Cup tie at SC Wiedenbrück, but took four league games to register his first victory. By the winter break Köln sat in 10th place, but their form plummeted in the second half of the campaign and they dropped into a relegation battle. This decline in form was coupled with several negative incidents involving their squad misbehaving off the field.[12] Solbakken later quipped that "Jesus and José Mourinho would have struggled together at that club this year".[13]

Solbakken was dismissed by Köln on 12 April 2012[14] following a 0–4 loss at Mainz, with the team sat in 16th place. He was replaced by former coach Frank Schaefer who oversaw the final four games of the season during which the club dropped to 17th place and so were relegated.[15]

Wolverhampton Wanderers

On 11 May 2012, English club Wolverhampton Wanderers announced that Solbakken was to become their new manager. He officially took over from acting manager Terry Connor on 1 July 2012.[16] Solbakken began his Wolves tenure with the club in the Football League Championship having been relegated from the English Premier League at the end of the 2011–12 season. His first competitive game in charge was a League Cup tie against Aldershot, which his side won on penalties.[17]

Solbakken failed to stop the club's slump that had brought relegation and despite at one time lifting the club to third place, they had slumped as low as 18th by the turn of the year. He was sacked on 5 January 2013 following an FA Cup elimination by non-league Luton Town, which was his fourth consecutive defeat.[18]

Return to Copenhagen

On 21 August 2013 Solbakken returned as head coach of Copenhagen, two years after his departure.[19]

Career statistics

Managerial statistics

As of 29 November 2016
Team Nat From To Record
GWDLWin %Ref.
HamKam Norway November 2002 2005 82 37 21 24 45.12
Copenhagen Denmark 2005 15 May 2011[10] 252 153 47 52 60.71
1. FC Köln Germany 15 May 2011[10] 12 April 2012[14] 32 9 5 18 28.13 [20]
Wolverhampton Wanderers England 1 July 2012[16] 5 January 2013[18] 30 10 5 15 33.33 [21]
Copenhagen Denmark 21 August 2013[19] Present 163 96 40 27 58.90
Total 559 305 118 136 54.56






  1. Nixon, Alan (14 October 1997). "Football: Wimbledon sign Norwegian". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  2. Rowbottom, Mike (28 December 1997). "Wimbledon hand the Hammers a gift of three points". London: The Independent.
  3. (Danish) John Laden Jensen, Solbakken, Ståle,
  4. Ståle Solbakken at
  5. 1 2 Marcus Christenson, Why football is not a matter of life and death for Solbakken, The Guardian, 1 November 2006.
  7. City are killing football, blasts Solbakken, Soccernet, 17 February 2009.
  8. "Ståle Solbakken bliver norsk landstræner i 2012" (in Danish). F.C. Copenhagen. 3 November 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  9. "Olsen fortsetter og etterfølges av Solbakken" (in Norwegian). Football Association of Norway. 3 November 2009. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  10. 1 2 3 "Solbakken neuer FC-Coach - Kreuzbandriss bei Petit" (in German). kicker. 15 May 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  11. 1 2 "Köln confirm Stale Solbakken as new manager for next season". 14 May 2011.
  12. "Solbakken arrives at Wolves – well schooled in dealing with turmoil". The Independent. 12 May 2012.
  13. "New Wolves boss Solbakken refuses to predict instant Premier League return". Daily Mail. 14 May 2012.
  14. 1 2 "Köln entlässt Solbakken - Schaefer hilft aus" (in German). kicker. 12 April 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  15. "1. FC Köln vs FC Bayern München Report". 5 May 2012.
  16. 1 2 "Wolves appoint Norwegian Stale Solbakken as new manager". BBC Sport. 11 May 2012.
  17. "Wolves 1-1 Aldershot". BBC Sport. 11 August 2012.
  18. 1 2 "Wolves sack manager Stale Solbakken after six months". BBC Sport. 5 January 2013.
  19. 1 2 "FCK fyrer Jacobs - ansætter Ståle Solbakken" (in Danish). Ekstrabladetek. 21 August 2013.
  20. "1. FC Köln". (in German). kicker. Retrieved 21 August 2014.
  21. "Stale Solbakken". CENTURYCOMM LIMITED. Retrieved 21 August 2014.

External links

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