Christian Eriksen played out the final minutes of the 2021-22 Premier League season with Brentford, relishing every second of being on the pitch. This will be a big summer for him, one where he will have a choice between a number of top teams in England that are vying for his signature. This is pretty standard for a top-level Premier League footballer making his name at a smaller club.
However, Eriksen’s story is far from typical when you consider that he almost died on the pitch last summer as the world watched on during a match at the pandemic delayed Euro 2020.
It was the 42nd minute of an uneventful game between Denmark and Finland in Copenhagen’s opening group stage match when Eriksen collapsed on the pitch while about to receive a throw-in. The crowd immediately went silent as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation were performed. This was not the first time a player had suffered a heart attack on a soccer pitch, and knowing fans expected the worst, the Dane was stretchered off and rushed to the hospital. Later, Eriksen said in an interview he had died for five minutes.
The overall news, however, was great. Eriksen fought – hard – and survived the incident. He was fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, a device similar to a pacemaker but that gives the heart a mild shock if it starts to beat out of rhythm. It was widely assumed that Eriksen’s career was over, but the inspirational Dane had other ideas. As soon as he was cleared by medical staff, he started training with his old club OB in Odense to see if he still had the desire to play and a body that would let him do so.
The next hurdle for Eriksen to overcome – the one after fighting to survive post-cardiac arrest – was that the club he was currently contracted to play for wasn’t able to let him continue his career. He had relocated to Inter Milan in Italy in a move that would have made him over $10 million per season for four years starting in June 2020. He won the Serie A title with Inter in the 2020-21 season, but the rules in Italy meant that a player with the heart device that Eriksen now has would not be eligible to play in the league for insurance reasons.
This was obviously a blow to a player doing everything he could to continue playing and whose journey quickly became an inspiration to others. After all, if a player could suffer a heart attack and then return to playing at the highest level, heart attack survivors could follow his lead and not live their own lives turning down opportunities for fear of another medical emergency.
Inter terminated its contract with Eriksen in December 2021. This gave him a chance to find a new team in a league without the rule against heart devices being in place. That league was the Premier League – a league where Eriksen had made his name previously with Spurs – and the club was West London outfit Brentford.
It was a perfect match. Brentford was in the middle of its first-ever Premier League season and desperately needed some experienced attacking quality. Eriksen is a gem of a soccer player who glides around the pitch and always seems to be in five yards of space when getting the ball. This means he is never in a rush and always able to use his wand of a right foot to pick out a pass.
Eriksen starred for Brentford. The premier player also scored a goal two minutes into his return to the Danish national team, and his journey has truly been inspirational. His time at Brentford is likely over – teams like Spurs, Leicester City, and perhaps even Manchester United are in the market for his services – but the union of the Bees and the Dane for a magical half-season was a sports story that even the most cynical of Premier League fans could get behind.
Story by Premier Players Steve Wright