With Peter as dad and Becks and Cantona as hip uncles, Kasper Schmeichel (37) learned early what winning was. His drive for success was also fueled in the Manchester United dressing room. ‘Only those who win prizes become a legend.’
Can you tell us how you ended up at Anderlecht?
“Since the arrival of Jesper Fredberg and Brian Riemer, Anderlecht is back big news in Denmark. Just like it used to be, in the 70s and 80s with Morten Olsen. I knew Anders Dreyer played here and when Thomas Delaney also arrived, I started following the situation closely. I had informed myself well in advance: about the daily way of working here, the style of the trainer… For me this was the opportunity to come to a club that wants to get to the top again and also has the player material to do that .”
Like so many players, you were also able to go to Saudi Arabia?
“That opportunity was there, but I’m not done playing football at the top level yet. And for me, top level means a European competition and the national team. If I had chosen Saudi Arabia, it would have been saying goodbye to the national team for me. I’m not ready for that yet. The national team is everything to me and to be top there, you have to play in a European competition.”
Are you satisfied with the level you are achieving?
“I am satisfied, but not fulfilled. That is the common thread through my career. I always want to improve and I always look for new stimuli to get better. The nice thing about being a goalkeeper is that there is no right or wrong way. You just have to keep that ball out of your net. The position of goalkeeper has evolved enormously over the last ten years. The goalkeeper is now the first man to build an attack and playing away football will only become more extreme.”
How is your relationship with Maxime Dupé? Your arrival was a blow to him.
“I understand that. I experienced the same thing when Joe Hart arrived at Manchester City and pushed me to the bench. And Joe also disappeared to the bench when Shay Given came into the team. That is inherent to football and the fate of a goalkeeper. Maxime and I respect each other.”
Is Kasper Schmeichel already busy with life after his career?
(laughs) “Why does everyone ask me that? In my head I’m really not ready to put my gloves away yet. Once you start thinking about that, the end of your career is in sight. I know I won’t be playing for another fifteen years, but I’m not exhausted. I still have the urge to get better.”
And you would only get 250,000 euros for that per year?
“I read that too, but it’s not correct. Apart from that, money has never been my motivation. Better no money and a lot of prizes than a full bank account with no titles on the record. Maybe I’m a hopeless football romantic. I grew up watching my father raise trophy after trophy. That was my motivation. I love athletes who have been at the top in their sport for years and are getting even better. Tom Brady, Gigi Buffon, Roger Federer. They defy the logic of science by being the very best even at that age. That’s how you become a legend.”
Speaking of legends… You gotta say daddy to an absolute legend.
“As a little boy, I was at virtually every title my father won. But the fondest memories for me are those moments when I was a little boy standing around the practice field in Manchester. Looking at Cantona, Scholes, Beckham. I literally watched David Beckham grow up. When I watch his Netflix documentary, it also brings back a lot of memories for me. Every training I tried to pick up as much as possible. The intensity, the will to always go all out. That’s what I wanted too.”
Is there another Schmeichel goalkeeper on the way?
“My son and one of my daughters play football. I want to keep them as far out of the spotlight as possible. If they like to do it, go for it. Football has given me so much. Not just purely in terms of performance, I just loved that feeling of being part of a team. I hope my children can experience that too.”
Do you train differently now that you’re getting older?
“It has not always been easy to compete against my father, but I am lucky that he has experienced it all. His advice was always: if you have the ambition to play until you are 40, you should not train too little, but certainly not too much. You have to find the right balance. What strikes me is that in France and Belgium much more emphasis is placed on the number of training hours than in England. There you can, so to speak, not train for a whole week as long as you perform on Saturday, when it really matters. I don’t have to dive every day to be top at the weekend. Some days I’m in the gym or the pool. I want to peak on match day.”
In that fairytale season with Leicester, was there one moment when you thought: ‘We can become champions’?
“When we were at the top at Christmas. In the last twenty years, the team that was first at Christmas also became champions eighteen times.”
So if Anderlecht takes the autumn title…
“It’s too early to talk about the title. Being involved is the most important thing for now. Setting a streak at the right time and staying injury-free are the most important things in a title fight. But at least we have the qualities to compete for the prizes.”