Lars Hening Joel Ekstrand (born 4 February 1989) is a Swedish footballer who plays as a defender and is currently a free agent. He has also represented Sweden at full international level and at various age levels.
Ekstrand started playing football for his home town club Lunds BK as a youth player. In 2005 he moved to Helsingborgs IF. He made his first team debut against PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of the 2007–08 UEFA Cup Round of 32, at Philips Stadion. Ekstrand had developed himself into a key player at Helsingborg before moving on to Udinese in 2011.
On 18 January 2011, Ekstrand penned a four-year deal with Udinese through to 2015. Ekstrand debuted for the club when Udinese faced Lazio in a 2–1 victory in which he came off the bench in the 70th minute.
Ekstrand made his first start for Udinese in a Champions League qualifying game against Arsenal. For this match, Udinese changed from the previous season's 3–5–2 formation to 4–1–4–1, where wing-backs Mauricio Isla and Pablo Armero became midfielders, thus using 4 defenders instead of 3 centre-backs. Ekstrand remained in the starting XI in the return leg a week later with Udinese losing 2–1 (3–1 agg). Ekstrand went on to make a further 17 appearances in all competitions for the 2011–12 season, picking up a total of seven yellow cards.
On 31 August 2012, Ekstrand joined Watford on a season-long loan from Udinese. He made his debut against Charlton Athletic on 2 October, coming on in the second half to replace Neuton. After recovering from an injury setback, Ekstrand scored his first Watford goal in a 2–1 win over Derby County on 23 February 2013. On 12 May 2013, Ekstrand played in the semi-final second leg against Leicester City. In a dramatic finale, after Watford goalkeeper Manuel Almunia saved both a penalty taken by Anthony Knockaert and a rebound which would have sent Leicester through to the final, Troy Deeney scored in the seventh minute of added time to take Watford through to the Championship Playoff Final on aggregate, Watford losing the final against Crystal Palace.
On 24 July 2013, Watford confirmed Ekstrand had signed a three-year deal with the club. He made his first start of the season away to Reading on 17 August 2013.
Ekstrand scored his first goal as a permanent Watford player against Bolton Wanderers on 14 February 2015. On 24 March 2015, it was announced that Ekstrand would be out for up to nine months after damaging his cruciate ligament in a Football League Championship match against Ipswich Town on 21 March. Watford gained Promotion to the Premier League, with Ekstrand playing 25 games during the promtion season.
He made a playing come back from injury in January 2016 after being out injured since March 2015, playing 2 matches for Watford's development squad, however he picked up an injury in an against Boreham Wood. In February 2016, then Watford Manager Quique Sánchez Flores revealed the club were in talks to extend Ekstrand's contract at the club despite Ekstrand still recovering from injury, with Flores describing Ekstrand: Ekstrand could be a very interesting central defender for the future. He has experience and plays football very well
After failing to make a first team appearance during the 2015/16 season due to injury and his contract situation changing after a change in management with Quique Sánchez Flores leaving the club and being replaced by Walter Mazzarri, on 3 June 2016, it was announced that Ekstrand would leave Watford upon his contract expiry.
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