Although he couldn’t save Denmark from their semi-final heartbreak, Kasper Schmeichel’s journey to Euro 2020 – via a shortcut through the EFL – is one of the more interesting career paths, writes Holly Hunt.
Hailing from the capital of Copenhagen, the son of Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel landed on the doorstep of Manchester City in September 2002, before first heading out on loan to League Two.
It was for Darlington – coincidentally, the same club where his opposite number Jordan Pickford in the semi-final clash started out – that he made his professional debut against Peterborough United in January 2006 in a 2-1 win, with his famous father watching on.
His loan spell with the North East club was short lived but valuable experience nonetheless, having finally branched out from City’s reserves and Darlington recognised his undeniable potential from the start.
Just one month after returning to parent club City, he headed out on loan again the following February to Darlington’s League Two rivals Bury. Schmeichel turned out 15 times for Bury over the course of the three months, before undertaking a separate three-month loan spell with the Shakers.
Following a spell north of the border with Falkirk, the shot-stopper returned to the EFL with Championship side Cardiff City in September 2007, shortly after inking a new four-year deal with Manchester City.
The keeper requested to extend his one-month loan with Cardiff, where he impressed with the Welsh club, and eventually returned to City after Andreas Isaksson handed in a transfer request.
However, he was welcomed back to the Championship by Coventry City for a short-term loan spell until the end of the season and eventually signed for League Two club Notts County in the summer of 2009 for a club record fee after his former manager Sven-Goran Eriksson convinced him to make the “best decision” of his career.
But the financial burden of the keeper’s wages became too much for Notts County to bear amid a doomed takeover and, despite an encouraging first season in Magpies colours, Schmeichel agreed to forfeit the remainder of his contract and leave without his outstanding wages.
From League Two to Leeds United, the goalkeeper made the decision to sign for the Whites in the Championship but his stint lasted little more than a year, when they accepted a bid from Leicester City for him in the close season of 2011.
It’s with his most recent club that Schmeichel has made his name, becoming an instant hit with Foxes fans, claiming the Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year accolades in 2011/12.
Twelve clean sheets in 28 games the following season earned Schmeichel his first senior cap for his country and a place in the 2012/13 Championship PFA Team of the Year, whilst also being linked with a move away to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
But he stayed loyal to Leicester and, most notably, the 34-year-old was between the sticks as Championship table-toppers Leicester won promotion back to the Premier League.
Over 300 appearances, a top-flight title and an FA Cup winners’ medal later, he had just one feat left on his mind: a European Championship.
The goalkeeper put in an impressive performance against England on Wednesday evening, pulling off some superb saves and keeping out Harry Kane from the spot, and although Denmark were defeated, Schmeichel didn’t go unnoticed.
Follow Holly on Twitter @HollyHunt10