Christian Eriksen was 21 when he came to England. He was part of the quickfire splurge of summer deals that followed the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in 2013. For a very short period he was lumped in, by some, as one of several rather underwhelming transactions on the same ticket. But not for long.
Eriksen arrived from Ajax a slight, boyish, jarringly normal‑seeming prodigiously talented footballer. This was the early take from those who came across him at Tottenham’s training ground. He didn’t seem like a star. He seemed a normal, quietly humorous young man from Denmark. He was spotted travelling around London on the tube with his girlfriend, Sabrina Kvist Jensen, with whom he now has two young children. He spoke with an easy, untrained manner in interviews. Before long something else became clear. Actually, he is a star.
But then Eriksen has always carried his brilliance as a footballer lightly on and off the field. At the age of 18, he was playing for Ajax in the Champions League against Real Madrid. At Spurs, he was known as Golazo. For a while he was the Maestro, which seemed to fit his scholarly, slightly severe demeanour.
In seven years at Spurs he became a key part in the revolution in the club’s style, fortunes and expectations enacted by Mauricio Pochettino.
In his first season he scored the winner at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day and finished with 10 goals. The following season he kicked off just behind Emmanuel Adebayor in attack. By the turn of the year, with Harry Kane now installed as a compelling forward partner, he was one of the outstanding creative players in the league, and an unusual one too.
English football had by now fully absorbed the idea of the inside forward who drove the game from between the lines. Eriksen is a kind of Nordic variation, never a flashy player, and without gratuitous movements or flourishes, but relentlessly productive, able to find tiny pockets of space, his game marked by clarity, vision and compete immersion in the team.
He emerged as the grace note in the happiest attacking quartet of the Pochettino years, Eriksen‑Alli‑Son‑Kane. He was, out of character, one of those nine Spurs players booked in the title-chasing meltdown at Chelsea in 2016, although he also played beautifully for an hour.
Meanwhile, Eriksen has been accumulating an astonishingly good international career. He has won 108 caps and 36 goals spread across 11 years. He scored a hat-trick in the World Cup play-off second leg against Ireland in 2018, a night when Eriksen looked sublime, a level above every other footballer on the pitch, leading his manager, Åge Hareide, to suggest he was one of the best 10 players in the world at that moment.
Eriksen played more than 300 games for Spurs but faded as that team aged together. As £12.5m signings go he remains one of the most engaging, and most affectionately recalled overseas recruits of the club’s modern age. He moved on in January 2020 as his Spurs contract ran down. He struggled a little at Inter but has been showing signs of settling as a member of the Serie A-winning team, a first major honour since three league titles with Ajax.
At 29, and with 12 years of professional football behind him Eriksen is a case of a pure talent expressed despite his slight stature – rectified by layers of muscle added during the Poch years – in a relentlessly high grade and demanding environment.
When he left Spurs Eriksen felt he still had another level to scale. He had been linked occasionally with Real Madrid; and even, more recently, with a move back to the Premier League, which he left with only friends and fond memories.