A creative force, a talismanic presence, and a fan favourite, Christian Eriksen was central to Tottenham Hotspur during his near seven year stay in north London.
In that time, the fantastic Dane made 305 appearances for Spurs, registered an incredible 159 goal contributions, and won the club’s player of the year twice – no mean feat when you’re competing with Harry Kane.
When he left for Inter in January 2020, the task of filling the hole he left in the Spurs side was never going to be an easy one.
Over the past year-and-a-half, we’ve seen the likes of Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, Erik Lamela, and even Lucas Moura occupy that number ten role for Spurs, while Dele Alli hardly got a look in under Jose Mourinho.
None of the above, however, have managed to inject the same impact that Eriksen provided for the Premier League club and something has clearly been lacking.
The spatial awareness, vision, creative streak, and movement that allowed the Dane to dictate play is rare and mightily difficult to replace but Tottenham finally have the ideal candidate to succeed Eriksen at the club – Mikkel Damsgaard.
The 21-year-old was one of Denmark’s brightest sparks at Euro 2020 and seamlessly adopted Eriksen’s talismanic role for the national side following the Inter man’s cardiac arrest on matchday one. After a good debut season in Serie A with Sampdoria, a lot was expected of Damsgaard this summer and he did nothing but exceed everyone’s hopes.
The similarities to Eriksen are clear. He possesses the ability to constantly pick up pockets of space and move defences around, the vision to unlock a game with a pass, a progressive mind that does nothing but look for a forward move, and the killer instinct to create and score goals. He was Kasper Hjulmand’s obvious choice to step in and pick up Eriksen’s workload – a daunting task.
To simply have these characteristics so blatantly at a young age is one thing, but to apply them so brilliantly in such a massively emotional and overwhelming situation on one of world football’s biggest stages is very much another.
Damsgaard was sensational throughout the tournament and carried his side when going forward. He was creator-in-chief, the shining light that others looked to, and the one that took responsibility for exciting and stunning creative play – and, at just 21, he couldn’t have looked more comfortable doing it.
Coming into Euro 2020, Damsgaard had earned just three caps for Denmark. Following his side’s semi-final exit, he has eight and has become a crucial cog in his country’s admirable machine.
A stunning goal against Russia in Denmark’s final group game, a clever assist against Wales in the round of 16, and a brilliant free kick against England in the last four is the evidence that shows just how accomplished Damsgaard looked at the tournament.
And it’s not just his output that makes him so exceptional. Denmark’s passionate togetherness over the course of the competition was epitomised by their forwards’ defensive contributions. Damsgaard not only showed off his glittering attacking talent, but demonstrated his collective attitude with a discipline befitting of some beyond his years.
The 21-year-old proved his all-round brilliance this summer and, while he won’t be cheap, Spurs need to secure his signature to succeed Eriksen at the club – just as he is doing on the international stage.