Peter Bolesław Schmeichel MBE (Danish pronunciation: [ped̥ɐ ˈsmɑɪ̯ˀɡ̊l̩]; born 18 November 1963) is a retired Danish professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper, and was voted the "World's Best Goalkeeper" in 1992 and 1993. He is best remembered for his most successful years at English club Manchester United, whom he captained to the 1999 UEFA Champions League to complete the Treble, and for winning UEFA Euro 1992 with Denmark.
Born in Gladsaxe, Copenhagen, Schmeichel was famous for his intimidating physique (he is 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) tall and weighed about 105 kg (16 st 7 lb) during his playing days). He wore specially made size XXXL football shirts. Unusual for a goalkeeper, Schmeichel scored 11 goals during his career, including one for the national team. He is also the most capped player for the Denmark national team, with 129 games between 1987 and 2001. In addition to Euro 92, he played for his country at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and three additional European Championship tournaments. He captained the national team in 30 matches.
The IFFHS ranked Schmeichel among the top ten keepers of the 20th century in 2000, and in 2001, Schmeichel won a public poll held by Reuters, when the majority of the 200,000 participants voted him as the best goalkeeper ever, ahead of Lev Yashinand Gordon Banks. In 2003, Schmeichel was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact on the English game. In March 2004, he was named as one of the "125 greatest living footballers", at the FIFA 100 celebrations.
He holds the record for the greatest clean sheets-to-games ratio in the Premier League with 42% of the games he played in the league ending without his team conceding.
He also represented Gladsaxe Hero, Hvidovre, Brøndby, Sporting CP, Aston Villa and Manchester City in a career that lasted from 1981 until 2003. His son, Kasper, is also a professional football goalkeeper.
Born in Søborggård parish, Gladsaxe, Denmark to a Polish father and a Danish mother, Peter Schmeichel held Polish citizenshipuntil 1970 when he, his father, and his siblings became Danish citizens. He inherited his second name – Bolesław – from his great-grandfather. He spent his early years growing up in the town of Buddinge, Copenhagen, and began his football career playing for a team in the adjacent suburb of Høje-Gladsaxe. He had been a fan of Manchester United and cited former goalkeeper Gary Bailey as his influences, as well as Sepp Maier, Tony Schumacher, Peter Shilton His first match came on 7 August 1972 at the age of 8. After a two-and-a-half-year unbeaten run, Schmeichel was approached by Hero, a team from a few divisions above Høje-Gladsaxe and with one of the largest youth football schemes in Denmark. Hero later merged with Gladsaxe to form Gladsaxe-Hero BK, and Schmeichel was presented with the opportunity to play for the Zealand FA's junior representative team.
Eventually graduating to the Gladsaxe-Hero senior squad, Schmeichel met his first mentor in Svend Aage Hansen, the first team coach at the club, and later to become his father-in-law. With Gladsaxe-Hero already relegated from the Danish Third Division with three games to go, Hansen promoted Schmeichel and six others from the youth team for a match against Birkerød. The team lost 1–0, but Schmeichel received mentions in local newspapers for his personal performance. At the end of the season, Hansen explained to Schmeichel his plan for the future, which involved Schmeichel spending two more seasons with Gladsaxe-Hero before moving on to Hvidovre, playing for the Danish national team, and eventually having a successful career abroad. Schmeichel admits that he had received an offer to play for B1903's youth team, but he turned it down as the club "seemed a bit boring".
The following season Gladsaxe-Hero needed only to avoid defeat to Stubbekøbing to prevent relegation from the Danish National League. In the end, Schmeichel played one of the games of his career and Gladsaxe-Hero won the match. At the end of the game, Hansen's daughter, Bente, ran onto the pitch and hugged Schmeichel. The two ended up going out as a couple, and they eventually got married.
Before becoming a professional footballer, Schmeichel had to work a number of jobs to make ends meet. His first job came in the dyeing department of a textile factory, but his concerns with the factory's policy on safety eventually forced him to hand in his notice. He then spent 12 months as a cleaner at an old people's home, before taking up an office job with the World Wildlife Fund. He originally worked in the organisation's shops, but three weeks after he joined, the store manager quit and Schmeichel was promoted to the position of sales manager. Soon after, Schmeichel was called upon to do his four weeks of compulsory military service. However, this coincided with Hvidovre's summer training camp in Portugal, which he was permitted to go on with the proviso that he completed his military service the following month. Nevertheless, the delicate organisational situation that arose between the WWF, the Danish defence department and Hvidovre prompted Schmeichel to give up working for the WWF. A job with his father-in-law's flooring firm came next, until he realised that his knees could not support his 15 stone (95 kg) frame for eight hours a day, and he was offered a job with the advertising firm owned by Hvidovre's chairman, Niels Erik Madsen. This was to be his last job outside football, as he was offered a contract with Brøndby the following spring.
Despite the fifth best defence in the league, conceding 40 goals in 30 games, Schmeichel and Hvidovre finished in 14th place and were relegated in 1985. After only a single season, the club bounced right back to the 1st Division, but Schmeichel was lost by Hvidovre to Danish runners-up Brøndby IF before the 1987 season. Winning the Danish league in his first year, he joined a club which he helped turn into a success. He debuted for the Danish national team in May 1987, under national manager Sepp Piontek, and was selected for the Euro 88 tournament, where he eventually became Denmark's starting goalkeeper.
In all, Schmeichel and Brøndby won four championships in five seasons. The climax of his Brøndby career would come in the European 1991 UEFA Cup competition, which saw Schmeichel as an important part of the team that reached the semi-finals. The club was eliminated by AS Roma with a last-minute goal by Rudi Völler. Following the tournament, Schmeichel was voted 10th in "The World's Best Goalkeeper 1991" poll by the IFFHS.
Following his showings on the international scene, Manchester United bought him in 1991 for £505,000, a price which was described in 2000 by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson as the "bargain of the century." It was mainly because at the time, Schmeichel was a relative unknown outside of Denmark, especially within the United squad members. Schmeichel played the bulk of his career for United, eight years in total. With United, Schmeichel won five FA Premier League titles, three FA Cups, oneLeague Cup, and the UEFA Champions League.
Manchester United finished as runners-up in Schmeichel's first season (also winning the Football League Cup for the first time in the club's history), but it was on the international stage that Schmeichel enjoyed his biggest success that year. In the Danish national team under new national manager Richard Møller Nielsen, Schmeichel was Denmark's starting goalkeeper at the Euro 92 tournament which they won. He saved a penalty kick from Marco van Basten in the semi-final, and held a cross with one hand in the final. He made a string of important saves during the tournament, and was elected "The World's Best Goalkeeper 1992".
In the 1992–93 season, 22 clean sheets from Schmeichel helped United win the Premier League championship for the first time in 26 years. Schmeichel was once again named "The World's Best Goalkeeper" in 1993. In January 1994, Schmeichel fell out with Ferguson, as United had squandered a 3–0 lead to draw 3–3 with Liverpool. The two had a row where Schmeichel "said the most horrible things", and he was subsequently sacked by Ferguson. A few days later, Schmeichel made an improvised apology to the other players. Unknown to him, Ferguson was eavesdropping on this, and he let Schmeichel stay at Manchester United.Schmeichel and United repeated the Premier League championship win at the end of the season.
Despite being a goalkeeper, he would run into the attack on corner kicks if his team was behind. The sight of him going up for the corner was a great distraction to opposing defenders. He scored a goal in this fashion, for Man United, in a 1995 UEFA Cup match against Rotor Volgograd. He scored in the last minutes of the game, though United were eliminated from the tournament on the away goals rule.
In April 1996, during a game against Coventry City, Coventry defender David Busst collided with United defender Denis Irwin and suffered a compound fracture of the leg. The break was so bad that the bone pierced through the skin and blood had to be cleared off the pitch. Schmeichel, who witnessed the incident, reportedly vomited at the sight and had to receive counselling afterwards.
Schmeichel played for Denmark at the Euro 96 hosted by England. The defending European Champions went out in the preliminary group stage, despite delivering results equivalent to the Euro 92 tournament.
Following a February 1997 match against Arsenal, Schmeichel was accused of racism by Arsenal striker Ian Wright. During the game, Schmeichel and Wright had a number of controversies, and at the end of the game, the two players confronted each other on their way off the pitch. After the game, news emerged of a police inquiry into a November 1996 match between the two clubs, where it was alleged that Schmeichel had made a racist remark. After months of politicising by The FA and The PFA, who wanted a "converted" Schmeichel as their posterboy of the "Kick Racism out of Football" campaign, no evidence was found and the case was dropped.
Under new national manager Bo Johansson, Schmeichel was a part of the Danish squad at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. He was one of the leading members of the Danish campaign, which ended in a 3–2 quarter-final defeat to Brazil.
Schmeichel ended his Manchester United career on the highest note, when Schmeichel and United won the Treble, the FA Premier League title, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, in the same season. In that year's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, Schmeichel saved a penalty kick by Dennis Bergkamp in the last minutes of the game (which Schmeichel revealed he was unaware of time), to send the game into extra time. In the absence of the suspended Roy Keane, he captained United in the UEFA Champions League final in May 1999. German opponents Bayern Munich had a 1–0 lead until the dying minutes of the game, when United received a corner kick. Schmeichel ran into the attack attempting to cause confusion, and Teddy Sheringham scored the equalising goal. A few seconds later, Ole Gunnar Solskjær scored the 2–1 winner for United to ensure that Schmeichel's United career ended on the highest possible note. In an unforgettable celebratory moment, Schmeichel was shown cartwheeling gleefully in his area after Solskjær's winning goal.
With his departure, Manchester United had trouble finding a replacement for him, going through several high-profile goalkeepers including Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Fabien Barthez, Tim Howard and Roy Carroll before finally buying Edwin van der Sar, who Sir Alex Ferguson considers the best goalkeeper to have played for the club since Schmeichel.
Schmeichel decided to leave English football at the end of the 1999 season, as the gruelling 60 game league and cups season, which came with playing with a successful club, was threatening to undermine his high standards at the age of 36. Seeking a slower pace of football, he moved to Sporting Clube de Portugal, where he won the 1999–2000Portuguese Liga title in his first season with the club, putting an end to the team's 18 years without a championship. He scored his only goal for the Danish national team, a penalty kick against Belgium, in a June 2000 warm-up match for UEFA Euro 2000. He represented Denmark at Euro 2000, where the team was eliminated in the group stage. He retired from the national team in April 2001, when he played a planned farewell match against Slovenia.
His second year with Sporting would be remarkable in that it was the first time in 14 years, since his Hvidovre days, that Schmeichel's club would finish below second place in the domestic league competition. Schmeichel stated his wish to activate a contract option of a further year at Sporting in January 2001, but eventually decided to leave the club when his contract ran out in June 2001. He considered a number of options for the future, before deciding to keep on playing.
He returned to England with Aston Villa in July 2001. On 20 October 2001, Schmeichel became the first goalkeeper to score a Premier League goal, in a 3–2 defeat away toEverton. A goalkeeper scoring in the Premier League is a feat only repeated three times: by Blackburn Rovers' Brad Friedel on 21 February 2004, also from a corner kick; byTottenham Hotspur's Paul Robinson from a free-kick on 17 March 2007; and by Everton's Tim Howard on 4 January 2012 . Schmeichel failed to complete his single season at Villa due to a clause in his contract stipulating that he would get to play in every game for which he was fit. Villa and Schmeichel decided to terminate Schmeichel's contract in order to let Schmeichel leave.
Schmeichel played his last active year for Manchester City during the 2002–03 season. Schmeichel's record in the Manchester derby is exceptional, in that he was never on the losing side. During his nine years with Manchester United, they were unbeaten against Manchester City, while in his single season with City, they won at Maine Road and drew atOld Trafford.
In December 1999, Schmeichel became the club owner of his childhood club Hvidovre IF. He withdrew from the club in June 2002. He worked as a pundit for the BBC after retiring, being a regular analyst on Match of the Day until 2005. He then began hosting live UEFA Champions League matches on Danish television channel TV3+, with Preben Elkjær and Brian Laudrup the studio pundits. However, he still works occasionally as a pundit for the BBC. Most recently, Schmeichel appeared as a pundit during the FA CupThird Round match between two of his former clubs, Manchester United and Aston Villa on 5 January 2008 alongside host Gary Lineker, and pundits Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer. Schmeichel's tough line of punditry has often been praised by critics and fans alike.
He has a son named Kasper who plays as goalkeeper for Leicester City. Kasper was called up for the Danish U19 squad in August 2003 and got his first experience of first team football on loan at League 2 side Darlington in 2005.
He also took part in Soccer Aid, and played for the Rest of the World team, who lost 2–1 after he was substituted at half-time. Schmeichel was a contestant on the 2006 series of the BBC's popular Saturday night TV programme Strictly Come Dancing, but was voted out by the public on his 43rd birthday. He recently appeared on The Weakest Link in the UK, but he was voted off as the weakest link in the first round.
Schmeichel has not made any ventures into music, despite previously owning a recording studio in his garage and recording a single in Denmark for UEFA Euro 1996.
On 31 August 2007, an investor group including Schmeichel announced their intention to invest 250 million DKK (€ 33.5 million) in the football club Brøndby IF and make Peter Schmeichel sports director. This was announced in a press conference in Danish at a hotel in Copenhagen. The offer fell through when Brøndby failed to accept the offer within the group's deadline.
In February 2007, he became the host in a new quiz, on TV3 named 1 mod 100 (the Danish version of 1 vs. 100). In 2008, he became the host of the European version of theDiscovery Channel programme, Dirty Jobs.