Peter Bolesław Schmeichel, MBE (Danish pronunciation: [ˈpʰe̝ˀtɐ ˈsmajˀkl̩]; born 18 November 1963) is a Danish former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He is best remembered for his most successful years at English club Manchester United, whom he captained to victory in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final to complete the Treble, and for winning UEFA Euro 1992 with Denmark.
Schmeichel in 2012
|Full name||Peter Bolesław Schmeichel|
|Date of birth||18 November 1963|
|Place of birth||Gladsaxe, Denmark|
|Height||1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Born in Gladsaxe, Copenhagen, Schmeichel was famous for his intimidating physique – at 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) tall and weighing close to 100 kg (15 st 10 lb) during his playing days – and wore specially made size XXXL football shirts. A fierce competitor, he was known for his loud, unstinting criticism of perceived mistakes by his defenders. Unusually for a goalkeeper, Schmeichel scored 11 goals during his career, including one for the national team. He is also the most capped player for the Denmark national team, with 129 games between 1987 and 2001. In addition to 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. He also represented Gladsaxe Hero, Hvidovre, Brøndby, Sporting CP, Aston Villa and Manchester City in a career that lasted from 1981 until 2003 and yielded 24 trophies.
Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time, he was voted the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper in 1992 and 1993, and in 2000, the IFFHS also ranked Schmeichel among the top 10 goalkeepers of the 20th century. In 2001, Schmeichel won a public poll held by Reuters, in which 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. His son, Kasper, is also a professional goalkeeper, currently playing for Premier League side Leicester City and the Danish national team.
Peter Schmeichel was born in the Søborggård parish of Gladsaxe, Denmark, to Inger, a Danish nurse, and Antoni Schmeichel, a Polish jazz musician. He held Polish citizenship until 1970 when he, his father, and his three sisters became Danish citizens.
Schmeichel inherited his middle name – Bolesław – from his great-grandfather. He spent his early years in the town of Buddinge, Copenhagen, and began his football career playing for a team in the adjacent suburb of Høje-Gladsaxe. His first match came on 7 August 1972 at the age of 8. After a two-and-a-half-year unbeaten run, Schmeichel was approached by BK Hero, a team from a few divisions above Høje-Gladsaxe and with one of the largest youth football schemes in Denmark. BK Hero merged with Gladsaxe BK in 1979 to form Gladsaxe-Hero BK, and Schmeichel was presented with the opportunity to play for the Zealand FA's junior representative team.
Eventually graduating to the Gladsaxe-Hero senior squad, Schmeichel met his first mentor in Svend Aage Hansen, the first team coach at the club, and later to become his father-in-law. With Gladsaxe-Hero already relegated from the Danish Third Division with three games to go, Hansen promoted Schmeichel and six others from the youth team for a match against IF Skjold Birkerød. The team lost 1–0, but Schmeichel received mentions in local newspapers for his personal performance. At the end of the season, Hansen explained to Schmeichel his plan for the future, which involved Schmeichel spending two more seasons with Gladsaxe-Hero BK before moving on to Hvidovre, playing for the Danish national team, and eventually having a successful career abroad. Schmeichel admits that he had received an offer to play for B 1903's youth team, but he turned it down as the club "seemed a bit boring".
The following season Gladsaxe-Hero needed only to avoid defeat to Stubbekøbing to prevent relegation from the Danish National League. In the end, Schmeichel played one of the best games of his career and Gladsaxe-Hero won the match. At the end of the game, Hansen's daughter, Bente, ran onto the pitch and hugged Schmeichel. The two ended up going out as a couple, and they eventually got married.
Before becoming a professional footballer, Schmeichel had to work a number of jobs to make ends meet. His first job came in the dyeing department of a textile factory, but safety concerns led to his resignation. He then spent 12 months as a cleaner at an old people's home, before taking up an office job with the World Wildlife Fund. He originally worked in the organisation's shops, but three weeks after he joined, the store manager left and Schmeichel was promoted to the position of sales manager. Soon after, Schmeichel was called upon to do his four weeks of compulsory military service. However, this coincided with Hvidovre's summer training camp in Portugal, which he was permitted to go on with the proviso that he completed his military service the following month. Nevertheless, the delicate organisational situation that arose between the WWF, the Danish defence department and Hvidovre prompted Schmeichel to give up working for the WWF. A job with his father-in-law's flooring firm came next, until he realised that his knees could not support his 15 stone (95 kg) frame for eight hours a day, and he was offered a job with the advertising firm owned by Hvidovre's chairman, Niels Erik Madsen. This was to be his last job outside football, as he was offered a contract with Brøndby the following spring.
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 made his debut 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, after initially serving as a back-up to Troels Rasmussen in Denmark's opening 3–2 defeat to Spain; Denmark lost both of their remaining two matches 2–0 to West Germany and Italy, however, and were eliminated in the first round of the competition.
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, keeping seven clean sheets in the competition. The club was eliminated from the tournament following a 2–1 away defeat to 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.
Manchester United (1991–1999)
Following his showings on the international scene, Manchester United signed Schmeichel on 6 August 1991 for £505,000, a price described in 2000 by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson as the "bargain of the century." It was mainly because at the time, Schmeichel was a relative unknown outside Denmark, especially within the United squad members. 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.
Manchester United finished as runners-up in Schmeichel's first season (also winning the Football League Cup for the first time in the club's history), but it was on the international stage that Schmeichel enjoyed his biggest success that year. In 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. Although Denmark initially finished behind Yugoslavia in their qualification campaign for the final tournament, the latter nation were banned from the competition, while Denmark replaced them in the finals. Schmeichel made a string of important saves during the tournament, keeping a clean sheet in Denmark's opening 0–0 draw against England, and producing decisive stops against Eric Cantona and Jean-Pierre Papin in a 2–1 win over France to advance to the last four. In the semi-finals against defending champions the Netherlands, following a 2–2 draw after extra time, he stopped a penalty kick from Marco van Basten – the only miss of the shoot-out – which enabled Denmark to advance to the final in a 5–4 shootout victory. Schmeichel also made several decisive saves in the final, and even held a cross with one hand, keeping a clean sheet in his nation's 2–0 victory over Germany. For his performances throughout the season, he was elected "The World's Best Goalkeeper of 1992" by IFFHS.
In the 1992–93 season, 22 clean sheets from Schmeichel helped United win the Premier League championship, the first time the club had won England's top trophy 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, also capturing the FA Cup. United were denied a domestic treble by losing the 1994 League Cup Final to Aston Villa, a game for which Schmeichel was suspended. At international level, however, he suffered disappointment as Denmark failed to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Schmeichel played for Denmark at 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 in the first round.
Following a match against Arsenal in November 1996, 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 the incident, where it was alleged that Schmeichel had made a racist remark. After months of politicising 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 3–2 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 (which Schmeichel revealed he was unaware of time), 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 to ensure that Schmeichel's United career ended on the highest possible note. In an unforgettable celebratory moment, Schmeichel was shown cartwheeling gleefully in his area after Solskjær's winning goal.
With his departure, Manchester United had trouble finding a replacement for him, going through several high-profile goalkeepers including Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Fabien Barthez, Tim Howard and Roy Carroll before finally buying Edwin van der Sar, who Sir Alex Ferguson considered the best goalkeeper to have played for the club since Schmeichel.
Schmeichel played his 129th and last international against Slovenia in 2001. He kept a clean sheet in the match – something he had done, staggeringly, in 42 per cent of his appearances for Manchester United. Schmeichel will be remembered as far more than being the greatest goalie in the history of De Rød-Hvide and the Red Devils. Indeed, in a 2001 Reuters poll, he beat Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks to be named the finest keeper in football history. Despite being a goalkeeper, 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 scored a goal in this fashion, for Man United, in a UEFA Cup match against Rotor Volgograd at Old Trafford in September 1995. He scored in the last minutes of the game to tie the match 2–2, though United were eliminated from the tournament on the away goals rule.
Sporting CP (1999–2001)
Schmeichel decided to leave English football at the end of the 1998–99 season, as the gruelling 60-game season, which came with playing with a successful club, was threatening to undermine his high standards at the age of 36. Seeking a slower pace of football, he moved to Sporting CP, where he penned a two-year contract. In his first season with the club, he won the 1999–2000 Primeira Liga title, putting an end to the team's 18 years without a championship. He scored his only goal for the Danish national team, a penalty kick in a 2–2 draw against Belgium, in a June 2000 warm-up match for Euro 2000. He represented Denmark at Euro 2000, where the team was eliminated in the group stage. He announced his retirement from the national team in February 2001, and played his final match (his 129th international appearance) two months later, captaining the side in a 3–0 friendly win over Slovenia at Copenhagen's Parken Stadium; he was substituted in the 65th minute to a standing ovation, replaced by long-time back-up Peter Kjær.
His second year with Sporting was remarkable in that it was the first time in 14 years, since his Hvidovre days, that Schmeichel's club had finished below second place in the league. 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 expired in June 2001.
Aston Villa (2001–2002)
Schmeichel returned to England with Aston Villa in July 2001, signing a one-year contract with the option to extend it by a further year. On 20 October 2001, Schmeichel became the first goalkeeper to score a Premier League goal, in a 3–2 defeat away to Everton; this feat has been repeated just five times since: by Blackburn Rovers' Brad Friedel on 21 February 2004, also from a corner kick; by Tottenham Hotspur's Paul Robinson from a free-kick on 17 March 2007; by Everton's Tim Howard on 4 January 2012; by Stoke City's Asmir Begović on 2 November 2013; and by Liverpool's Alisson on 16 May 2021. Schmeichel left Aston Villa after one season after he fell behind Peter Enckelman in the club's pecking order under new manager Graham Taylor, who had replaced John Gregory in February 2002.
Manchester City (2002–2003)
In 2002, Schmeichel completed a move to Manchester City on a free transfer. He played only one season, in 2002–03. 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.
Schmeichel 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 on Danish television channel TV3+, with Preben Elkjær and Brian Laudrup the studio pundits. However, he still works occasionally as a pundit for the BBC.
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 also appeared on The Weakest Link in the UK, but he was voted off as the weakest link in the first round.
On 31 August 2007, an investor group including Schmeichel announced their intention to invest DKK 250 million (€33.5 million) in the football club Brøndby IF and make him sports director. This was announced in a press conference in Danish at a hotel in Copenhagen. The offer fell through when Brøndby failed to accept the offer within the group's deadline.
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 of the European version of the Discovery Channel programme, Dirty Jobs.
Style of play
Schmeichel is widely regarded by pundits, as well as both former and current goalkeeping colleagues, as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and also as Denmark's greatest goalkeeper ever, and has been described as a modern, talented, world-class, and complete goalkeeper, who also stood out for the longevity of his career. A tall, strong and physically imposing goalkeeper, with a large frame and long reach, as well as excellent reflexes, he was also extremely athletic and agile for a player of his size, and was known for his ability to cover the goal with his trademark "star jump" saves, a technique he reportedly developed from playing handball.
He was highly regarded for his goalkeeping technique, shot-stopping ability, and positioning between the posts, as well as his command of his area, handling, and ability to rush off his line both in one on one situations or when coming out to claim crosses. A courageous and fierce competitor, he was a vocal presence in goal, known for his strong character, mentality, ability to organise his defence, and leadership from the back, as well as for his criticism of his defenders whenever they made mistakes. He was also effective at stopping penalties. In addition to his goalkeeping ability, he was also known for his capacity to read the game, as well as his adeptness with the ball at his feet, and his distribution and ability to launch swift counter-attacks with his long and accurate throws and kicks. Unusually for a goalkeeper, he would often go up for corner kicks in the opposition's area when his team were trailing, and scored 11 goals in his career.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Other||Total|
|Hvidovre||1984||Danish 1st Division||20||0||—||—||—||20||0|
|1986||Danish 2nd Division||30||0||—||—||—||30||0|
|Brøndby||1987||Danish 1st Division||23||2||—||2||0||—||25||2|
|Manchester United||1991–92||First Division||40||0||3||0||6||0||3||0||1||0||53||0|
|Sporting CP||1999–2000||Primeira Liga||28||0||2||0||—||2||0||—||32||0|
|Aston Villa||2001–02||Premier League||29||1||1||0||2||0||4||0||—||36||1|
- Danish 1st Division/Danish Superliga: 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991
- Danish Cup: 1988–89
- Premier League: 1992–93, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99
- FA Cup: 1993–94, 1995–96, 1998–99
- Football League Cup: 1991–92
- FA Charity Shield: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997
- UEFA Champions League: 1998–99
- European Super Cup: 1991
- Primeira Liga: 1999–2000
- Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira: 2000
- UEFA Intertoto Cup: 2001
- Det Gyldne Bur (Danish Goalkeeper of the Year): 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992
- Danish Football Player of the Year: 1990, 1993, 1999
- UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 1992
- UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year: 1992, 1993, 1998
- IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 1992, 1993
- PFA Team of the Year: 1992–93 Premier League
- Premier League Player of the Season: 1995–96
- UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year: 1997–98
- UEFA Champions League 10 Seasons Dream Team (1992 to 2002): 2002
- English Football Hall of Fame: 2003
- PFA England League Team of the Century (1907 to 2007): 2007
- Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2001–02):
- Overseas and overall Team of the Decade
- Save of the Decade (vs. Newcastle, 21 December 1997)
- Premier League 20 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2011–12):
- Fantasy Teams of the 20 Seasons public and panel choice
- FIFA 100
- Danish Football Hall of Fame
- World Soccer: The 100 Greatest Footballers of All Time
- Football League 100 Legends
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- Premier League profile
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- Peter Schmeichel at IMDb
| Denmark captain