After eight-and-a-half injury-plagued, yet successful years at Anfield, Liverpool’s Danish vice captain Daniel Agger was allowed to leave this summer after finding himself dropping further down the pecking order. However, Agger was not only allowed to leave, he was allowed to leave for practically nothing. The main reason for this was that it was his boyhood club Brøndby that came knocking on the door – and perhaps Agger’s allegedly tearful “please allow me to leave” plead to Brendan Rogers, Liverpool’s manager, also played its part. Brøndby bought Agger back for three million pounds, perhaps a big sum for a Danish club but nevertheless very cheap compared to what Liverpool might have gotten for Agger if they had sold him to Napoli or FC Barcelona. After all, we are talking about a player that was wanted last year by Barcelona who supposedly offered close to 15 million pounds only twelve months ago.
This summer, Agger could also have gone to almost every decent club in the top four leagues of Europe – Napoli, Arsenal, and Barcelona was mentioned among others. And if he had, he would definitely have had an instant impact. But he chose to return to his boyhood club, and he did so out of what I wouldn’t hesitate to call “existential necessity”. For Agger, there are only two clubs in this world, Liverpool FC and Brøndby IF. Both of them are literally inscribed onto his body. Again, Agger could have gone to Napoli this year or Barcelona last year, but he chose – quite sensationally – Brøndby in Denmark. Why? Because money didn’t matter to Agger. But feelings did. And they are the kind of feelings we don’t see anymore in the world of professional soccer. Feelings of loyalty and belonging, but also of pride and happiness – or, in Agger’s case at Anfield, hurt pride and unhappiness.
After all, we are talking about a player who, apart from turning his back on several possibilities in the best leagues in Europe, is only 29 years old, that is, in his prime, and still captain of the Danish national team. To many, it was inexplicable why Agger wasn’t good enough for Liverpool’s starting XI. He was rated among the best playing and ball-passing centre-halfs in the Premier League, a player with incredible composure, vision, and presence.
There runs a constant undercurrent beneath all this, though. Agger’s health. His body is quite simply more fragile than others. Apparently, he himself became increasingly aware that life in the Premier League was too hard for his injury-prone body.
When returning to the Danish Superliga, Agger will definitely be in a class of his own, a level or even two levels above the rest. And due to him being an intelligent and game-reading central defender, and because Brøndby’s coaching staff will undoubtedly create a training program individually fine-tuned to Agger, he will be able to play for several years in the Superliga, and he will probably remain its absolute star for just as long.
At Brøndby IF, he is welcomed back as a saint, and his homecoming has already meant a sold-out Brøndby Stadion. His transfer is by far the most sensational in the history of Danish soccer. And it could only happen because feelings of loyalty, belonging, (hurt) pride, and (un)happiness means more to Agger than money.
In that respect Agger is a dying breed in modern day soccer. Perhaps the very last of a dying breed.