The quadrennial UEFA European Football Championships had to wait five years for its most recent edition, with three years separating the delayed 2020 event to its regularly scheduled 2024 showcase because of the coronavirus pandemic. As the Euros got underway after a 365-day delay, it was a celebration to have such a large-scale event back weeks before the Tokyo Olympics. It took less than 24 hours for the fragility of life brought to the forefront during the pandemic to present its awful self during the Euros.
In the 43rd minute of Denmark’s match against Finland, Christian Eriksen went into cardiac arrest on the field and collapsed. To give Eriksen as much privacy as possible, his Danish teammates surrounded the EMTs attempting to stabilize him. Suddenly, playing in such a huge event felt small. Making sure one of Denmark’s best survived, much less played sports again, was paramount. Eriksen was nursed back to full health and the match continued only after confirmation was given that he was awake.
Eriksen’s comeback has been miraculous and took another triumphant step Friday, signing a three-year contract with Manchester United, 389 days after the collapse. How unlikely did Denmark’s No. 10 joining one of the biggest clubs in the world seem last June? I’d say it was impossible, especially when Eriksen’s former club, Inter Milan, wasn’t allowed to play him. Serie A didn’t permit his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.
Inter terminated his contract soon after Eriksen began training again last December, so he signed with Premier League club Brentford in January — a step down for him, as he’s usually played with a squad consistently taking part in European competition. Instead, his efforts to help Brentford avoid relegation were successful with a 13th-place finish. He returned to the Danish national team, too, in March, scoring two minutes into his international return.
While Man U isn’t competing in the UEFA Champions League this season — likely the reason Cristiano Ronaldo wants to end his second stint at Old Trafford early — it is going to be active in the Europa League after finishing sixth in the Premier League last season. It’s jarring to think Eriksen will be an integral part of Manchester United’s efforts to get back to the top of England, and possibly Europe.
Eriksen’s collapse will be part of his career and life. Watching that game live will forever be etched in my brain, and I still think it was a horrible decision to continue that game against Finland the same day. Denmark shouldn’t have been given that option. Yet, the Danish let that adversity inspire them in a run to the tournament’s semifinals without their best player.
Watching Eriksen play with Brentford, you’d never know he’s less than a year removed from that severe trauma. He was out of the game for eight months, and he had less in-game rust than most. I don’t think this move ensures Man U will finish in the top four this season as Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Eriksen’s former club, Tottenham, are all better on paper. It’ll be great to see that chase though, an opportunity I couldn’t foresee a year ago.