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‘King’ Christian Eriksen, Denmark’s creative force and star player

Milan (AFP) – Christian Eriksen, who collapsed during Denmark’s Euro 2020 opener on Saturday, is a creative midfielder who made his name at Tottenham Hotspur before moving to Inter Milan and helping the Nerazzurri end their 11-year wait for a Serie A title.

Eriksen slumped to the turf near the touchline late in the first half of his team’s game against Finland in Copenhagen, with silence descending on the horrified crowd as the 29-year-old was given CPR on the pitch.

Eriksen regained consciousness and was undergoing tests in a hospital in the Danish capital as his teammates resumed their match later on Saturday, losing 1-0.

Skilful but physically slight, Eriksen is known for providing assists and scoring free-kicks.

After a difficult start to his Inter career after moving to Milan in January 2020, Eriksen became a key player for demanding coach Antonio Conte in the final four months of the season.

A superb injury-time free-kick to grab a 2-1 Italian Cup quarter-final win over AC Milan in January changed the course of his season.

Forming a promising tandem with Croatia’s Marcelo Brozovic, he became indispensable, scoring in the decisive match which sealed Inter’s first league title since 2010 in May.

“The perception is that things changed at that moment,” recalled Eriksen, who has scored eight goals in 60 games for Inter.

“Conte and I had to get to know each other,” he said, adding he needed to adapt “to a new system and playing style”.

“I’ve slowly got the hang of it and I’m now well aware of what needs to be done.”

– ‘Extra motivation’ –

Born in Middelfart, central Denmark, Eriksen’s father was a football coach at youth level, and he started his playing career at his local club before the age of three, later competing in the Danish youth championships.

His form at youth level and dribbling and free-kick techniques brought him to the attention of a number of major European clubs, including Chelsea and Barcelona.

Eriksen opted for a move to Ajax in 2010 and scored 32 goals in 163 appearances across three seasons for the Dutch giants, where he won three league titles before moving to the Premier League and Tottenham for £11.5 million ($16.2 million) in August 2013.

After an initially slow start to life in England he blossomed under Mauricio Pochettino, scoring 69 goals and providing 89 assists in 305 appearances.

Alongside England stars Harry Kane and Dele Alli he was part of the Spurs side that reached the Champions League final in 2019.

In January 2020, he moved to Inter on four-and-a-half-year deal for a reported fee of 27.5 million euros ($32.6 million) including bonuses.

Inter finished second in his first season and Eriksen’s dream move looked over last November when he requested to leave the Italian giants after just 10 months.

But after initial problems with the language and a year overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, he finally settled in Milan alongside Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.

For the national side, the player known as ‘King Christian’ has been a key figure since his first cap in 2010, making 109 appearances and scoring 36 goals.

“Ten years ago, I would have said I didn’t need anyone’s eyes on me. But I’ve grown over the course of my career, as have people’s expectations of me,” he said.

“That gives extra motivation knowing expectations are high and that all eyes are fixed on me.

“In a way, I worked to be the one we watch, so I see the pressure as a positive element now.”

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