Now that Serie A has seen the arrival of Danish midfield fighter Daniel Jensen, who has recently joined Novara I have been inspired to bring you another installment in the series ”Danes in calcio”. This time we’ll deal with another Danish fighter. He graced the peninsula for six seasons, probably much longer than will be the case for Jensen. His name should be known to fans of at least Pisa, where he played for four seasons. His name is Klaus Berggreen.
When Berggreen came to Italy in 1982 Denmark was on the rise as a football power. Players like current national coach Morten Olsen along with Elkjær Larsen, Arnesen, Lerby, Simonsen and a young Michael Laudrup would in the next six years lead Denmark to the top of international football and into the hearts of football lovers around the world.
Berggreen had had his debut in the national team in 1979 but as the new coach Sepp Piontek tried out a lot of new players while also sticking to some older guns the young, and aptly mustached player from the north of Copenhagen lost his spot quickly again. In 1982 however his time had come again. Simonsen was declining and Bastrup and Røntved quitting, and Berggreen was a very versatile player who could fill in both an attacker, a midfield fighter and a winger.
As he established himself in Pisa, who were then in Serie A, he also became an established part of the Danish National side. His problem however was that even if he was able to cover a lot of positions he wasn’t as technical as Laudrup, as innovative as Elkjær, or as lawn mover like (a common Danish way to describe a midfield fighter) as Jens-Jørn Berthelsen. Berggreen did play a lot however and the depth brought to the Danish side by players like him was also an integral, if often overlooked, part of the success of the heralded Danish 80′s team.
The 1980′s didn’t bring many Danes to Italian football. With only two non-Italian players allowed in each team for most of the decade, there wasn’t room for many. Laudrup first in Lazio and then in Juventus and Elkjær Larsen in Verona took the most of the picture, but Claus Berggreen delivered the goods in all of his six seasons in Calcio.
The first four years saw him become a hero in Pisa. His hard work and his humble attitude was just what the small provincial town needed. He even accepted to play a year in Serie B, when his team was relegated. After the promotion in the 1984-85 season a swift relegation the following year lead to his departure from Tuscany. He had done his part in the relegation battle and moved on to more lush surroundings in the capital.
Before he left Pisa however he managed to get a rare trophy under the belt – a Mitropa Cup. This cup competition was already then way past its prime concerning status. As the football historians in rsssf write on their site “By then [the 1980's], the tournament had lost all credibility and tended to be hosted by mediocre Italian sides in an attempt to embellish their palmares.” But ok – it was a trophy.
Berggreen arrived in Roma just after the Danish performance in the 1986 world cup that saw the Danes brush Scotland, Uruguay, and Germany aside before a traumatic nosedive against Spain. His stay in Rome was short, only one season, but he played 24 games (out of a possible 30) and managed to score five goals.
Berggreens last season in Italy saw him move to Turin where he played for the Torino, making him the local rival of Michael Laudrup. Together with players like Lorieri and Crippa he lead Granata to a decent seventh place – only missing European qualification in a spareggio against Laudrup and the other Bianconeri. He then left Italy in 1988 in a small Danish exodus that also took Elkjær Larsen home to Denmark and the year after Laudrup to Barcelona. Serie A was then Dane-less (the horror!) until a guy named Henrik Larsen joined Berggreen’s old team Pisa in 1991.
Berggreen went home to play for Lyngby, the only Danish club he ever played for. As a young player he had taken them from the third to the top tier of Danish football, now he acted as a playing director of sports before he retired form active duty at the relative young age of 32. His name might not evoke lavish memories in the mind of the average football fan, but real calcio supporters know a true fighter and a true professional when they see one. In the 1980′s they often saw Klaus Berggreen.
Photo by someone I’ve forgotten – sorry mate… Contact me if this is your picture.