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By ESPN Staff

Mellberg hands in Swedish captain's armband

Olof Mellberg is quitting as captain of Sweden to concentrate on his career at Aston Villa under new manager Martin O'Neill.

Mellberg, who wants to continue as a player for his country, has been considering whether to hand over the armband since the World Cup finals in Germany. Freddie Ljungberg has been handed the captaincy by coach Lars Lagerback.

He told Villa's official website: 'I have been thinking about this since after the World Cup and felt that with everything that is going on at Aston Villa it was time to let someone else take over.

'We have a new manager and we do not know exactly what will happen with the club or who will take over as the owner.

'I feel it could be a good change for the national team and for myself.'

Villa skipper Mellberg is excited at the prospect of Villa finally realising their potential under O'Neill.

He said: 'It's fantastic for the players and fantastic for the fans as well. I think we all needed a lift - especially the fans.

'As I've said before, we just focused on pre-season and getting ourselves fit for the new manager. Now Martin O'Neill is here and we can get things right for Arsenal away.

'His arrival excites me as a player. I have only heard good things about him.

'From his Celtic days I obviously know Henrik Larsson well and Johan Mjallby and Magnus Hedman were also there.

'They know him really well and they've all had good things to say about him, so I'm looking forward to working with him.'

Mellberg added: 'I think this can definitely lift the players - especially the players who were maybe not involved that much last season.

'It's all like starting a little bit from scratch for everyone. I think we needed that after last season, because that was really, really disappointing.

'I think you could see against Hanover on Saturday from the players who were not really involved last season - players like Eric Djemba-Djemba and Mathieu Berson - came in and looked really determined.'

Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Stade Rennes), Rami Shaaban (Fredrikstad FK)

Defenders: Mikael Dorsin (Rosenborg Trondheim), Petter Hansson (Heerenveen), Mikael Antonsson (Panathinaikos), Mikael Nilsson (Panathinaikos), Fredrik Stenman (Bayer Leverkusen), Karl Svensson (Rangers), Niclas Alexandersson (IFK Gothenburg)

Midfielders: Daniel Andersson (Malmo), Kim Kallstrom (Olympique Lyon), Tobias Linderoth (FC Copenhagen), Christian Wilhelmsson (Nantes), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Kennedy Bakircioglu (FC Twente), Johan Elmander (Toulouse)

Forwards: Marcus Allback (FC Copenhagen), Markus Rosenberg (Ajax Amsterdam), Fredrik Berglund (FC Copenhagen)