Peter Bolesław Schmeichel MBE (born 18 November 1963 in Gladsaxe, Denmark) is a retired Danish professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper, and was voted the "World's Best Goalkeeper" in 1992 and 1993. He experienced his most successful years playing for 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 6'4" 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 in the history of football. The IFFHS ranked Schmeichel among the top ten keepers of the 20th century in 2000, 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. 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.
He holds the record for the greatest clean sheets-to-games ratio in the Premiership with 42% of the games he played in the Premiership ending without his team conceding.
His son, Kasper Schmeichel, is employed by Manchester City F.C., but is currently on loan at Coventry City F.C..
Schmeichel was born in Søborggård parish, Gladsaxe in Denmark. His father was Polish and his mother was Danish, Peter Schmeichel was a Polish citizen until 1970 when he, his father, and his siblings became Danish citizens. 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 national under-21 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 named 1 mod 100 (the Danish version of 1 vs. 100). In 2008 he became the host for the European version of Dirty Jobs for Discovery Channel. He is a pundit for TV3 Denmark's coverage of UEFA Champions League football. He and his wife currently resides in Espergærde, Denmark.
Despite the fifth best defence in the league, conceding 40 goals in 30 games, 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 to Danish runners-up 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.
Following his showings on the international scene, Manchester United bought him in 1991 for £530,000, a price which was described in 2000 by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as the "bargain of the century". 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 Manchester 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".
In the 1992-93 season, 22 clean sheets from Schmeichel helped United win the Premier League championship for the first time in 26 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. The two had a row where Schmeichel "said the most horrible things", 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. 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.
Following a February 1997 match against Arsenal, 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.
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.
Schmeichel 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, 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 attempting to cause confusion, and Teddy Sheringham scored the equalising goal. A few seconds 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, but eventually decided to leave the club when his contract ran out in June 2001. 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. On 20 October 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 twice, by Blackburn Rovers' Brad Friedel on 21 February 2004, also from a corner kick, and by Tottenham Hotspur's Paul Robinson from a free-kick on 17 March 2007. 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. His last major action in football was to make a world class save against Liverpool at Anfield, in a game which City went on to win. This ultimately led to Liverpool missing out on a Champions League spot on the final day of the season.
In December 1999, Schmeichel became the club owner of his childhood club Hvidovre IF. He withdrew from the club in June 2002. He worked as a pundit for the BBC after retiring, being a regular analyst on Match of the Day until 2005. He then began hosting live UEFA Champions League-matches at Danish television channel TV3+, with Preben Elkjær and Brian Laudrup the studio pundits. However, he still works occasionally as a pundit for the BBC. Most recently, Schmeichel appeared as a pundit during the FA Cup Third Round match between two of his former clubs, Manchester United and Aston Villa on 5 January 2008 alongside host Gary Lineker, and pundits Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer. Schmeichel's tough line of punditry has often been praised by critics and fans alike.
He has a son, Kasper, who plays as goalkeeper for Manchester City. 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 in 2005.
His popularity in Britain is perhaps best measured by Tyrone Dobbs 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, but he was voted off as the weakest link in the first round.
On August 31, 2007, an investor group including Schmeichel announced their intention to invest 250 million DKK (33.5 million €) in the football club Brøndby IF and make Peter Schmeichel sports director. This was announced in a press conference in Danish at a hotel in Copenhagen. This decision is a result of the major crisis that the club Schmeichel made his breakthrough with is in. The offer fell through when Brøndby failed to accept the offer within the group's deadline.