Kasper Schmeichel has made a career of his own after his father Peter's exploits
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Whenever Leicester City’s squad report for training at the club’s gleaming new £100 million headquarters, they can be certain of one thing: one player will already be there to greet them.
Kasper Schmeichel is the ultimate professional, a demanding character who is so dedicated to his craft that he has usually completed a session in the gym and studied match clips long before 9am, when most of his team-mates report for duty.
He is one of the Premier League’s most successful goalkeepers, conquering almost everything the club game has to offer including a league title, promotions and, seven weeks ago, his first FA Cup. Now, for his one unconquered frontier: a return to Wembley with Denmark tomorrow to set up a shot at European Championship glory, inspired by the ordeal of team-mate Christian Eriksen, who suffered a cardiac arrest in the first group game.
Whisper it quietly, but the incentive of emulating father Peter’s achievements from 1992, when Denmark’s dream makers secured the European Championship, will be another motivating force. Any mention of Peter to Kasper is often guaranteed to provoke a terse response, but winning this tournament is one narrative the Danish No. 1 would grudgingly accept.
“He is always going to be held up against his father, who was one of the best keepers in the world,” says Brendan Rodgers, the Leicester manager. “I’m just pleased that in his own right he has developed into a top-class goalkeeper. 70 international caps, 400 club games for Leicester, he has played at every level. It’s amazing to see the career he’s carved out for himself.”
The comparisons with his dad may be easy to understand, but cut no ice with the 34-year-old. Indeed, Schmeichel once claimed his career would have been easier if he had played another sport – he is, after all, a keen tennis player. Yet he has unquestionably become a superstar in his own right, and should be recognised as one of the finest Premier League goalkeepers of the past decade.
With a commanding, authoritative presence in the penalty area, he is just as comfortable directing passes as he is making saves. Leicester’s style of play under Rodgers, building from the back, is similar to Denmark so it is always a smooth transition to international level.
Kasper Schmeichel with his Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers
Credit: NMC POOL
Ever since his early days as a teenager at Manchester City, his career has always been driven by ambition, determination and the enduring pursuit of perfection. He was highly regarded at Manchester City but was never going to accept gathering dust on the bench or in under-23 teams. He was proactive, pushing for moves, and before the age of 22 had already been out on loan at Darlington, Bury, Falkirk, Cardiff and Coventry. In 2009 the call came from Sven Goran Eriksson, which led to Schmeichel taking what he insists was the best decision of his life.
Eriksson was spearheading a bold revamp of League Two club Notts County, offering Schmeichel the chance to leave the comfort zone of the Etihad. Schmeichel signed on a free transfer, agreeing a five-year contract, but the season soon turned awry. Under the turbulent ownership of Munto Finance, Schmeichel went unpaid for seven months. Despite the huge uncertainty off the field, Schmeichel was loving life. Regular first-team football was the adrenaline rush he needed and, remarkably, County achieved promotion.
Lee Hughes, the striker who scored 30 league goals for County in that season, told Telegraph Sport: “When he first joined us he found it difficult to adapt because he’d been so used to the players and facilities at Manchester City.
“But after a few weeks he settled down and was just so focused. It’s tough football down at that level but he loved it. Even then, he used to be a nightmare in training! He would absolutely hate conceding a goal, so I always used to remind him when I’d put one past him. There were obviously issues off the field at the time but we stuck together and, for Kasper, I think he learned a lot from the experience. It’s no surprise to see where he’s at now.”
Schmeichel’s time at County was brief, however. His reported £15,000-a-week wages were simply unmanageable for the club’s new regime, struggling with mounting debts. He agreed to waive all of his future salary to join Leeds, where he spent a year until the £1million move to Leicester in 2011. It is with the east Midlands side where Schmeichel has emerged as an ultra-reliable, consistent No. 1, one of the few constants during a period of steady progress. His standards are high, which can sometimes create conflict.
A striking aspect of Leicester’s lockdown, in the absence of supporters, was hearing Schmeichel constantly yelling expletive-ridden instructions or warnings to team-mates, while also challenging refereeing decisions. He is in Leicester’s ‘leadership group’ and those qualities have been clear to see during two tragic events in his career.
In 2018, Leicester’s beloved owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died in a helicopter accident, along with four others, outside the King Power Stadium. Schmeichel was held back by police as he raced to the burning wreckage, with his natural instinct to help.
“I ran straight out of the tunnel and round to that side of the stadium,” he recalled, shortly after the incident. “We managed to get close – our security guard got closer than I did, and he (the security guard) tried to get in and do something. But it was very evident from the heat that there was nothing anyone would be able to do. It was horrifying, horrible, to be that helpless.”
Schmeichel dedicated Leicester’s FA Cup victory over Chelsea in May to the late Khun Vichai, and remains very close with his son Aiyawatt, who is now the club’s chairman.
Leicester City chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha (right) and goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel celebrate with the FA Cup
He was also prominent last month when Eriksen collapsed on the pitch, helping to form a human shield around the stricken midfielder. He consoled Eriksen’s wife Sabrina Kvist, standing with Denmark captain Simon Kjaer as medical staff attended to the former Tottenham star.
Memories of that June afternoon at Parken Stadium will occupy the thoughts of the Danish squad on Wednesday night, as they bid to prevent England from reaching the first European final in their history. Schmeichel will be crucial, and these England players will need no pre-match analysis to know how difficult beating him will be.