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Peter Schmeichel

Peter Bolesław Schmeichel MBE November 18, 1963.is a Danish former professional footballer who played the position of goalkeeper, and was voted the "World's Best Goalkeeper" in 1992 and 1993. He experienced his most successful years in English club Manchester United, with whom he won the 1999 UEFA Champions League to complete The Treble. He was a key member of the Denmark national football team which won the 1992 European Championship (Euro 92) tournament.

Schmeichel is famous for his intimidating physique (he wears an XXXL shirt and stands 6ft 4 tall) and his attacking threat. Throughout his career, Schmeichel scored 11 goals, a great feat for a keeper. He is the most capped player for the Denmark national team, with 129 games and one goal between 1987 and 2001. Apart from Euro 92, he played for his country at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and three additional European Championship tournaments. He captained the national team in 30 matches.

Today, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers ever. The IFFHS ranked Schmeichel as the seventh best keeper of the 20th century in 2000,[1] and in 2001 Schmeichel won a public poll held by Reuters, when the majority of the 200,000 participants voted him as the best goalkeeper ever, ahead of Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks.[2] In 2003, Schmeichel was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact on the English game. In March 2004, he was named as one of the "125 greatest living footballers", at the FIFA 100 celebrations.

Playing style

At his peak he was arguably the world's best goalkeeper; a charismatic keeper with presence and excellent shot-stopping skills, but equally famous for his temper. He was a perfectionist, never afraid to vent his feelings or anger at his own defenders if he thought they made an error. He would frequently shout at defenders, especially Steve Bruce at Manchester United, although the two have remained firm friends, and Marc Rieper for Denmark. From his deep position he could spot threats and dangers that his defenders could not always see - and alert them. He would co-ordinate the whole defence, instilling confidence by his constant vocal presence.[3]

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When it came to shot stopping from long-range, Schmeichel was unrivalled. He was rarely ever beaten from outside the box during his tenure at Manchester United. Not only that, but from close range he was the master. In his school days playing Handball, he had perfected a strange star-shaped jump to cover as much of the goal as possible, allowing him to excel in one-on-one attacker versus goalkeeper situations. If an opposing player managed to break through the United defence, Schmeichel would come charging out to narrow the angle. Spreading his huge frame high and wide in a star shape, this both put the player off and made the net more difficult to hit.

One of his key strengths was the long throw-out - which means he could throw the ball from inside his penalty box all the way to the oppositions penalty box - used to launch quick counter-attacks. As soon as Schmeichel gained control of the ball from the opposing team in the United penalty area, he would search out Manchester United's two wingers Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis and throw the ball to them in order to catch the opposing team off balance.

Personal information
Full name Peter Bolesław Schmeichel
Date of birth November 18, 1963 (age 43)
Place of birth    Gladsaxe, Denmark
Height 1.93m (6ft 4in)
Nickname The Great Dane
Playing position Goalkeeper (retired)
Youth clubs
Senior clubs1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Hvidovre IF
Brøndby IF
Manchester United
Aston Villa
Manchester City
46 (0)
88 (6)
119 (2)
292 (1)
50 (0)
29 (1)
29 (0)
653 (10)   
National team
1987-2001 Denmark 129 (1)
1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Despite being a goalkeeper, he could also single-handedly provide a deadly offensive threat as well. He would run into the attack on corner kicks if his team was behind. The sight of him going up for the corner was a great distraction to opposing defenders. He once scored a goal in this fashion, for Manchester United, in a 1995 UEFA Cup match against Rotor Volgograd. He scored in the last minutes of the game, though to no avail as United was eliminated from the tournament on the away goals rule. His presence in the opposition penalty area arguably also led to United's equaliser in the final of the 1999 UEFA Champions League. During his short spell at Aston Villa in the 2001/02 season, he became the first ever goalkeeper to score in a Premier League match (excluding own goals).


Schmeichel was born in Søborggård parish, Gladsaxe in Denmark. His father was Polish and his mother was Danish, and Peter Schmeichel was a Polish citizen until 1970 when he, his father, and his siblings became Danish citizens.[4] Schmeichel played his first years at local teams in Gladsaxe before moving to Hvidovre IF in the top-flight Danish 1st Division championship in 1984. He made his debut for the Denmark under-21 national football team in May 1984. He worked as a carpet fitter before becoming a professional footballer. In February 2007 he became the host in a new quiz, on TV3 (Denmark) named 1 mod 100 (the Danish version of 1 vs. 100).

Professional career


Despite the fifth best defense in the league, conceding 40 goals in 30 games,[5] Schmeichel and Hvidovre finished in 14th place and were relegated in 1985. After only a single season, the club bounced right back to the 1st Division, but Schmeichel was lost by Hvidovre. He moved to Danish vice-champions Brøndby IF before the 1987 season. Winning the Danish league in his first year, he joined a club which he helped turn into a success. He debuted for the Danish national team in May 1987, under national manager Sepp Piontek, and was selected for the Euro 88 tournament, where he eventually became Denmark's starting goalkeeper.

In all, Schmeichel and Brøndby won four championships in five seasons. The climax of his Brøndby career would come in the European 1991 UEFA Cup competition, which saw Schmeichel as an important part of the team that reached the semi-finals. The club was eliminated by AS Roma with a last-minute goal by Rudi Völler. Following the tournament, Schmeichel was voted 10th in "The World's Best Goalkeeper 1991" poll by the IFFHS.[6]

Manchester United

Following his showings on the international scene, Manchester United bought him in 1991 for £530,000,[7] a price which was described in 2000 by United manager Alex Ferguson as the "bargain of the century".[8] Schmeichel played the bulk of his career for United, eight years in total. With United, Schmeichel won five FA Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, and the UEFA Champions League.

He and United finished runners-up in his first season, but Schmeichel would experience personal success with the Danish national team under new national manager Richard Møller Nielsen. Schmeichel was Denmark's starting goalkeeper at the Euro 92 tournament which they won. He saved a penalty kick from Marco Van Basten in the semi-final, and most notably held a cross with one hand in the final. He made a string of important saves during the tournament, and was elected "The World's Best Goalkeeper 1992".[9]

In the 1992-93 season, 22 clean sheets from Schmeichel helped United win the FA Premier League championship for the first time in 28 years. Schmeichel was once again named "The World's Best Goalkeeper" in 1993. In January 1994, Schmeichel fell out with Ferguson, as United had squandered a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 with Liverpool FC. The two had a row where Schmeichel "said the most horrible things",[10] and he was subsequently sacked by Ferguson. A few days later, Schmeichel made an improvised apology to the other players. Unknown to him, Ferguson was eavesdropping on this, and he let Schmeichel stay at Manchester United.[8] Schmeichel and United repeated the Premier League championship win at the end of the season. Schmeichel competed with Denmark at the Euro 96 hosted by England. The defending European Champions went out in the preliminary group stage, despite delivering results equivalent to the Euro 92 tournament.[11]

Following a February 1997 match against Arsenal FC, Schmeichel was accused of racism by Arsenal striker Ian Wright. During the game, Schmeichel and Wright had a number of controversies, and at the end of the game, the two players confronted each other on their way off the pitch. After the game, news emerged of a police inquiry into a November 1996 match between the two clubs, where it was alleged that Schmeichel had made a racist remark. After months of politicizing by The FA and The PFA, who wanted a "converted" Schmeichel as their posterboy of the "Kick Racism out of Football" campaign, no evidence was found and the case was dropped.[12]

Under new national manager Bo Johansson, Schmeichel was a part of the Danish squad at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He was one of the leading members of the Danish campaign, which ended in a 2-3 quarter-final defeat to Brazil.

Schemichel ended his Manchester United career on the highest note, when Schmeichel and United won the Treble, the FA Premier League title, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, in the same season. In that year's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal FC, Schmeichel saved a penalty kick by Dennis Bergkamp in the last minutes of the game, to send the game into extra time. In the absence of the suspended Roy Keane, he captained United in the UEFA Champions League final in May 1999. German opponents Bayern Munich had a 1-0 lead until the dying minutes of the game, when United received a corner kick. Schmeichel ran into the attack, to attempt creating confusion, and Teddy Sheringham scored the equalising goal. A few minutes later, Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored the 2-1 winner for United, Schmeichel's last game for the club.

Sporting Clube de Portugal

Schmeichel decided to leave English football at the end of the 1999 season, as the gruelling 60 game league and cups season, which came with playing with a successful club, was threatening to undermine his high standards at the age of 35. He moved to Sporting, where he won the 1999-2000 Portuguese Premier League title in his first season with the club. He scored his only goal for the Danish national team, a penalty kick against Belgium, in a June 2000 warm-up match for the Euro 2000. He represented Denmark at the Euro 2000, where the team was eliminated in the group stage. He retired from the national team in April 2001, when he played a planned farewell match against Slovenia.

His second year with Sporting would be remarkable in that it was the first time in 14 years, since his Hvidovre days, that Schmeichel's club would finish below second place in the domestic league competition. Schmeichel stated his wish to activate a contract option of a further year at Sporting in January 2001,[13] but eventually decided to leave the club when his contract ran out in June 2001.[14] He considered a number of options for the future, before deciding to keep on playing.

Return to England

He returned to England with Aston Villa in July 2001.[15] On October 20, 2001, Schmeichel became the first goalkeeper to score a Premiership goal, in a 3-2 defeat away to Everton. A goalkeeper scoring in the Premier League is a feat only repeated once, by Blackburn Rovers' Brad Friedel on February 21, 2004, also from a corner kick. Schmeichel failed to complete his single season at Villa due to having a clause in his contract stipulating that he had to play in every game if he was fit to do so. After a string of poor performances, Graham Taylor decided to release Schmeichel from his contract in order to be able to play Peter Enckelman.

Schmeichel played his last active year for Manchester City during the 2002-03 season. Schmeichel's record in the Manchester derby is exceptional, in that he was never on the losing side. During his nine years with Manchester United, they were unbeaten against Manchester City, while in his single season with City, they won at Maine Road and drew at Old Trafford.


In December 1999, Schmeichel became the club owner of his childhood club Hvidovre IF. He withdrew from the club in June 2002. He has worked as a pundit for the BBC since then, a frequent studio pundit when Manchester Utd are playing. He began hosting live UEFA Champions League-matches at Danish television channel TV3+, with Preben Elkjær and Brian Laudrup the studio pundits. However, he is working again as a pundit for the BBC in the English FA Cup Third Round match between Manchester United, his former club, and Aston Villa alongside host Gary Lineker, and pundits Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer.

He has a son, Kasper Schmeichel, who plays as goalkeeper for Manchester City (currently on loan at Falkirk F.C.). Kasper was called up for the Danish U-19 squad in August 2003 and he got his first experience of first team football on loan at League 2 side Darlington FC in 2005.

His popularity in Britain is perhaps best measured by Chesney Battersby-Brown on the soap Coronation Street naming his former dog (a Great Dane) 'Schmeichel'. He also took part in Soccer Aid, and played for the Rest of the World team, who lost 2-1 after he was substituted at half-time. Schmeichel was a contestant on the 2006 series of the BBC's popular Saturday night TV programme Strictly Come Dancing, but was voted out by the public on his 43rd birthday. He recently appeared on The Weakest Link in The UK, He was voted off as the weakest link in the first round.



  • 1992 European Football Championship, with Denmark

Brøndby IF

  • Danish Superliga Champions (4): 1987, 1988, 1990, and 1991
  • Danish Superliga Runner-Up: 1989
  • Danish Cup: 1989

Manchester United

  • FA Charity Shield (4): 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997
  • FA Premier League Champions (5): 1992/93, 1993/94, 1995/96, 1996–97, and 1998/99
  • Football League First Division Runner-Up: 1992
  • FA Premier League Runner-Up: 1994/95 and 1997–98
  • FA Cup (3): 1994, 1996, and 1999
  • English League Cup: 1992
  • European Super Cup: 1991
  • UEFA Champions League: 1998-99

Sporting Lisbon

  • Portuguese Superliga: 2000

Aston Villa

  • Inter-Toto Cup: 2001


  • Brøndby IF Player of the Year: 1990
  • Danish Player of the Year (3): 1990, 1993, and 1999
  • World's Best Goalkeeper: 1992 and 1993
  • UEFA Club Football Awards: 1997-98
  • English Football Hall of Fame: 2003


  • European Footballer of the Year: 5th in 1992
  • FIFA World Player of the Year: 5th in 1992, 4th in 1993
  • World's Best Goalkeeper: 4th in 1994, 2nd in 1995, 4th in 1996, 3rd in 1997, 2nd in 1999
Manchester United Captain (temporary)


  • Peter Schmeichel with Egon Balsby, "The Great Peter", Møntergården, Copenhagen, 2000, 2nd edition (ISBN 87-7901-122-5). Danish translation of: "Schmeichel: The Autobiography", Virgin, 1999 (ISBN 0-7535-0444-8)


  1. ^ IFFHS' Century Elections, IFFHS, 30 January 2000
  2. ^ (Danish) PETER SCHMEICHEL at ShowStars.dk
  3. ^ Schmeichel (2000), p. 233-235
  4. ^ Schmeichel (2000), p. 35
  5. ^ Danmarksturneringen 1985 at Peders Fodboldstatistik
  6. ^ The World's best Goalkeeper 1991 by IFFHS
  7. ^ Brøndby »tabte« på Schmeichel, B.T. article, August 8, 1991
  8. ^ a b Schmeichel's MBE honour, BBC Sport, December 30, 2000
  9. ^ The World's best Goalkeeper 1992 by IFFHS
  10. ^ "[...] sagde de frygteligste ting.", Schmeichel (2000), p. 143
  11. ^ One victory, one draw, and one loss in three group stage matches.
  12. ^ Schmeichel (2000), p. 157-165
  13. ^ Schmeichel staying at Sporting, BBC Sport, 12 January, 2001
  14. ^ Schmeichel leaves Sporting Lisbon, BBC Sport, 15 June, 2001
  15. ^ Villa clinch Schmeichel deal, BBC Sport, 12 July, 2001

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