By Philip O'Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden stalwart Sebastian Larsson may have missed the autumn internationals due to a knee operation but there is no end in sight for the 31-year-old who is back in the squad aiming to increase his haul of 87 caps.
With his contract at English Premier League club Sunderland set to run out in June, and a top flight club having relocated to his Swedish home town of Eskilstuna, talk has been rife that Larsson was set to either move home or quit the game entirely.
However, the midfielder has no plans to end his career and is set to continue playing for the foreseeable future.
"Honestly, I don't see the end of my career any time soon and I hope to play on for another few years," he told Reuters following a training session in the Swedish capital ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Belarus on Saturday.
"I feel motivated and hungry, but where that will be we'll have to wait and see. I'm not too stressed about it.
"You've got to keep your options open. I've loved England throughout my career. The Premier League has been great for me. Obviously, I wouldn't be against playing in England, but you have to keep your options open.
"I'll have a look in the summer, see what's available and make a decision from there."
Larsson was his usual industrious self at Euro 2016, appearing in all three group games, but could not prevent Sweden finishing bottom of the section with one point.
But unlike other senior squad members, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kim Kallstrom and Andreas Isaksson, he chose not to hang up his international boots after Sweden's early exit.
With coach Erik Hamren having been replaced by Jan Andersson, Larsson is adapting to a new way of working but he won't be quitting the national team any time soon.
"I haven't been here long enough to notice any changes yet, as the days go by I'm sure there will be," he said. "Each manager has his own way of doing things, so I'll just have to try to pick it us as I go along."
He returns to a team who are third in World Cup qualifying Group A with seven points from four games, three off leaders France and behind second-placed Netherlands on goal difference.
After playing Belarus, who are fifth with two points, Sweden face European champions Portugal in a friendly next Tuesday,
Larsson is the second-oldest player in the squad and smiles at the suggestion he is a father figure for the younger players.
"I don't see myself as the granddad just yet, so we'll have to see how we go. Obviously, I've got a lot of experience and I have to use that to help the younger lads when that is needed," he said.
Having spent the best part of six years at Sunderland, who are again involved in a relegation battle, the international break provides Larsson with a chance to get away from the pressure of their struggle at the bottom of the table.
"When I'm with the national team that's where one hundred percent of my focus is, and when I go back it will be with my club, with Sunderland," Larsson said.
"When I return there after this, I'll do everything in my power to help the club escape relegation, as we've done before."
Larsson's has played for Sweden in a variety of positions across midfield and at full back and, though he not guaranteed to feature against Belarus, he remains the same dedicated team player as when he made his debut against Turkey nine years ago.
"It's all about getting the three points, to keep progressing this team. They've done well when I've been on the sidelines but in qualifiers it's ultimately about the three points," he said.
(Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Ken Ferris)