Full name: Peter Bolesław Schmeichel
Date of birth: 18/11/1963
Affectionately known as the ‘Great Dane’, Peter Schmeichel is so popular in England that even opposition fans admit to a soft spot for him. This is in large part due to the respect the Denmark native commands, with a long and glorious career playing in clubs around Europe and winning cups, solidifying his reputation as one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of the sport.
In England though, Schmeichel is best known as the keystone of a Manchester United squad that topped the league again and again in the 1990s. Schmeichel is considered by many pundits to be one of the finest foreign players in the English league, and was certainly the most remarkable goalkeeper of his generation, with his great height, white-blond hair and occasionally red nose(!) ensuring he soon became a recognisable figure both on and off the pitch. His personal accolades attest to his individual prestige, even picking up consecutive titles for World and European Goalkeeper of the Year in 1992 and 1993.
Peter Boles?aw Schmeichel was born on the 18th of November 1953 in Denmark, to a Polish father and a Danish mother. As a child he played amateur football for local boys’ teams, making his international professional debut in 1984 for the Danish national team’s under 21-s. He started his club career at Hvivdovre IF. The club fared badly despite the protection afforded them by Schmeichel’s excellent defence, and was relegated in 1985. Soon after, Schmeichel moved to another Danish club, Brøndby, where his international career truly began.
Playing for Brøndby, Schmeichel won four championships in five years. The pinnacle of his career there was the team getting to the UEFA Cup semi-finals in 1991. This was what really got him noticed not only by football fans but also a certain Alex Ferguson, who bought him for Manchester United that same year. Schmeichel was purchased for little over half a million pounds, a bargain for one of the players who would go on to become one of the team’s all-time greats.
The following year would also prove to be his most successful period in the international game. As the mainstay of the Danish national side, he was central to the country’s incredible triumph in the 1992 European Championships – most notably, when he saved a penalty from Holland’s Marco Van Basten in the semi-final. Schmeichel’s contribution was firmly acknowledged when he was voted Best Goalkeeper of the Year 1992.
The success kept coming in club football as well, with Schmeichel spending the greater part his career with United, becoming a much-loved figure amongst fans. During his eight years at Manchester United, Schmeichel was the stalwart of the team, rarely substituted and eventually made captain, and he reached the top of the Premier League no fewer than five times alongside his teammates. United also won three FA Cups and the UEFA Champions League.
There were few lows in this most successful of partnerships, although Schmeichel did fall out with Alex Ferguson and left the club briefly during the 1993-4 season. Ferguson reputedly forgave Schmeichel’s outburst when he heard him giving a humble apology to his team-mates in the changing rooms. More seriously though, Schmeichel was accused by Ian Wright of racism in 1997, a charge which was investigated but eventually dropped in the same year.
Schmeichel’s last season for United was perhaps his career high, as the 1998-1999 season saw the team capture the treble of the Premiership, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. As well as being an integral member of the team, he was even captain during the Champions League final in the place of the suspended Roy Keane, lifting the trophy after a dramatic 2-1 victory in Barcelona. It was truly a perfect way to round off his career at United.
By now 35 years old, the gruelling English seasons had taken their toll and Schmeichel decided to make a change, signing with Portuguese club Sporting CP. He went on to win the Portuguese Premier league with them, but did not stay for long, moving again in 2001.
Instead, he remarkably returned to England where he signed for Aston Villa. That season, he befittingly became the first goalkeeper to score a goal in the Premiership, against Everton.
Manchester – Again!
His brief sojourn in Portugal over, Schmeichel remarkably returned to England with Aston Villa. However, the shock was still to come as, after one season in the Midlands, he signed with United’s historic rivals, Manchester City. During what would prove his final season, he managed to keep a clean sheet in the Manchester derby and contributed to a famous victory for City. Despite such moments, Schmeichel finally called time on his career at the end of that 2002-2003 season.
As well as being one of the many retired sports players who can constantly be found on television quiz shows, Schmeichel has worked as a football pundit for the BBC since his retirement from the game. He also, famously, put in an endearingly bad performance on the dance show, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, finally being voted off by the public on his 43rd birthday.
On a more serious note, Schmeichel has enthusiastically taken part in ‘Soccer Aid’, and invested his money in ailing Danish football clubs. In 1999 he brought his childhood club Hvidovre, and in 2007 he even attempted a bid for his old club Brøndby, which was rejected.
The Schmeichel family also continue to take part in football through Peter’s son, Kasper, who plays – surprise surprise – as goalkeeper for, ironically enough, Manchester United’s arch-rivals Manchester City. Schmeichel Sr, meanwhile, currently lives with his wife in Denmark, where he presents…a television quiz show.
- Ledøje-Smørum – 1970 – 1971
- Gladsaxe/Hero 1971 – 1981
- Gladsaxe/Hero 1981 – 1083 (46 App)
- Hvidovre IF 1984 – 1986 (76 App, 6 Goals)
- Brøndby IF 1987 – 1991 (119 App, 2 Goals)
- Manchester United 1991 – 1999 (296 App, 1 Goal)
- Sporting CP 1999 – 2001 (50 App)
- Aston Villa 2001 – 2002 (29 App, 1 Goal)
- Manchester City 2002 – 2003 (29 App)
- Denmark 1987 – 2001 (128 Caps, 1 Goal)
‘He extends and grows even bigger than he is’ – Ron Atkinson
‘There is one place in the team that is automatic. It is the one that belongs to Schmeichel’ – Bobby Charlton (on his Manchester United ‘dream team’)
- Inducted into English Football Hall of Fame: 2003
- Danish Player of the Year: 1999, 1993, 1990
- UEFA Club Football Awards: 1998
- Best European Goalkeeper: 1993, 1992
- World’s Best Goalkeeper: 1993, 1992
- Brøndby IF Player of the Year: 1990
- Danish Goalkeeper of the Year: 1990, 1988, 1987
|1984-1987||Hvidovre IF||78 (6)|
|1991-1999||Manchester United||292 (0)|
|1999-2001||Sporting Portugal||50 (0)|
|2001-2002||Aston Villa||29 (1)|
|2002-2003||Manchester City||29 (0)|