Danish defender Simon Kjær is a man with a mixed reputation. By some he’s seen as a world class defender in the making, and by others as a young player who’s already over the top. It’s time for Pondering Calcio, the official and correct source of anything calcio related, to look beyond all of that and find the truth. Wie es eigentlich gewesen so to speak.
Simon Kjær came to Palermo in 2008 at the tender age of 19. He quickly and surprisingly gained a spot in the starting line-up, and soon he found himself as one of the most hyped young talents of Serie A. Palermo was in many ways the perfect club for a youngster of his caliber. They might have the most insane president in Maurizio Zamparini (even if that’s a hard fought contest in Italy), and managers might be flying left and right. But at the same time, it’s a club that on one hand offers quality, so the stress of looming relegation isn’t overwhelming. On the other hand it’s not a club where Champions League qualification is imperative every season. Zamparini might be a loudmouth, but the ambitions of the club are smaller than they appear to the untrained eye.
It was a real shame for Serie A when Kjær chose to go to Wolfsburg in Germany after the world cup in 2010. Calcio had lost a great talent and to me it didn’t seem like such a big step up for Kjær. While it might have been a good choice financially it turned out that Wolfsburg wasn’t the right choice with regards to actual football. After a 2010-11 season where Kjær played a lot of games but also recieved widespread criticism things turned really sour around a year ago, where the Danish defender ended up in arguments with his German coach. A quick return to Italy was what Kjær wanted and what he got.
Kjær’s time in Roma has been mired by injuries, but not by lack of confidence from the coach Luis Enrique (who now is gone..). Kjær has recieved strong criticism after some notable mistakes, and the aura of hope, youth, and endless potential has disappeared as he has been dragged through the mud by an angry press and impatiant fans alike.
Let’s start with putting one thing straight. Simon Kjær is not a world class defender, but he’s not a disaster either. He has fallen victim to the often seen dynamic where young players are heralded as the second coming of Christ and their every mistake overlooked, and then when things suddenly goes a bit awry people only sees the mistakes and the poor guy is cruzified in the pres and over morning espressos everywhere.
To put it short – football Italy fell in love with a blond and charming lad, only to find out a couple of years later that he also has flaws. If this reminds you of your own relationship to your wife or husband it’s no coincindence. If you’re still together with your spouse, you know what Simon Kjær needs and deserves. Faith, time, and respect. He wasn’t the new Nesta (yet), but he isn’t a walking hole in the defence either.
Simon Kjær is a hard tackler, who most often times his interceptions brilliantly. His headers are also powerful and he’s quite fast. He possesses all the basic ingrediences that make a good defender – even if his scary tattoos are betrayed a little by his boyish face. The problems in Roma has been a general lack of security in the back, leading to misunderstandings between Kjær and his colleagues in the defence. This uncertainty has also lead to personal mistakes. Simon Kjær has a lot of potential, but he has not yet shown himself to be a leader who can pull his team out of trouble.
The weakest point in Kjær’s game is his passing. Time and again has he send long and hopeless passes into the void, and at least fans of the Danish national team has ridiculed him. When the negative press has started running, people suddenly cannot see anything else than bad passes. Instead of saying that we have a young and gifted footballer with potential, 95% of the Danish football fans seem to think that was have a failure, who apart from some insecure defending is also a disaster with the ball at his feet.
Kjær’s solid performances at Euro 2012 have shown that while he still might lack attacking skills he sure does have defensive ones. I hope that at least some Danes have been convinced of that now and that more people understand why men like Delio Rossi, Morten Olsen, and Luis Enrique have chosen to trust him.
As we have seen in Italy with the former Bari defenders Ranocchia and Bonucci careers can take different paths. At first Ranocchia was the savior and future of Italy’s back four, and now he’s seen as insecure and vague. Bonucci’s path has more or less been the opposite as he’s now dismantling one star attacker after another in Poland and Ukraine. Simon Kjær is at the moment sharing the fate with Ranocchia, but I for one will not be surprised if he suddenly becomes a Bonucci. He’s still only 23 years old and I hope that we’ll see him in Italy for the decade to come.
As an epilogue it’s also worth noting that Simon Kjær loves Italy. In Denmark, where calcio is widely seen as mediocre, insignificant if not outright insulting, it’s rare to find a guy that combines talent with love of Italy. Maybe he’s the first since Martin Jørgensen. I appriciate Kjær’s passion for the game we love, and that he chose to come back to the peninsula. While it shouldn’t shelter him from criticism, it will always make him a player of my heart.
You can follow Simon Kjær at Twiiter at @simonkjaer1989.
Photo by brandybernard