Podcast with Simon Kjær - Spiller Til Spiller
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Podcast with Simon Kjær

Interview: Spiller Til Spiller · 21 Jan 2022

In this podcast with Simon Kjær, the Danish captain is asked to look back on 2021, which was an insane year. The podcast by Spiller Til Spiller was published on January 21, 2022.

Many thanks to Randi for the English translation.

Simon Kjær podcast about an insane year

Simon Kjær: “I think at some point I have to sit down, and then I really just have to go through a little bit of what has really happened. In ‘21, so much has happened and there has been so much run on club football and national team football, so it has been overwhelming. But at the same time, it’s been also cool to be a part of.”

Michael: “Once Simon Kjær lay the boots on a shelf, looking back on his career, the football year 2021 must undeniably stand out. Because even though his football career over the years has taken Simon Kjær through many countries, leagues and great football moments, 2021 has simply been extreme. For that was the year, he as the national team captain gathered the nation at home.

It was the year, he was named the 18th best footballer in the world, and where he was named Footballer of the Year by The Guardian. And yes, a short time ago he could be hailed as the Male Footballer of the Year 2021 in Denmark.

But it was also the year when he saw his teammate and friend fall over on the field. And the year he helped bring him back to life. And he ran into the first serious injury of his career so far.”

Simon Kjær: “But in the end we are fine, and everyone is fresh and happy, at least. I think more of myself, but no, ‘21 has been completely insane.”

Michael: “We talked to Simon Kjær about the crazy football year 2021. The interview was made by my colleague Dan Hirsch Sørensen.”

Dan: “Well let's try it Simon. You just move on.”

Michael: “And the broadcast is put together is me, Michael Hehr. You're listening to the Players' Association podcast. Enjoy.”

Also worth reading: Simon Kjær wins Denmark's Football Player of the Year 2021 award

Simon Kjær about helping Christian Eriksen

Dan: “Most of us can recall where we were, what we felt and who we were with, but while the rest of us sat stunned in the stands, or was to a big screen event, or at home on the couch, Simon Kjær was in the middle of it all.

He instinctively ran from one end of the field, to the other to help his teammate. Yes, to help his friend. Something that will always be part of the story of the football player and human being Simon Kjær.”

Simon Kjær: “100 percent, you can say I like..., I also said that after Ballon d’Or, I really want that thing to be quietly faded out. Of course I always want to be a part of it, but that's not what you can say has weighed on me. It has been..., it was my friend, I know the whole family, we have spent a lot of time together down here in Milan, so it's some completely different ... on a completely different personal level for me.

So it has also been something to work on and it also takes time, but I am at a good place and feel good and find peace in it. So in that way, it's a chapter over for me, but still something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It will always be there.”

"I really want that thing to be quietly faded out. It's a chapter over for me."

- Simon Kjær about him helping Christian Eriksen

Dan: “Has that experience settled with you or what?”

Simon Kjær: “Yes and no, I think every single time I get to be in Parken afterwards ... last time, where we were there. I think it was very special. Hopefully it gets better, I was also able to play a good game last time I was in there, so it's not because it affects me that way.

Of course there are pictures and things you remember, but you can say that ... Instead of thinking so much about it, just take it in as part of the process.

Part of my career, part of my life, and then use it quietly to move on, and so ... I'm on, I'm fine, I know Christian and the family are fine, and so I really just did what I have been doing all along. Have spent time with my family and played football.”

Was it a pure instinct?

Dan: “Simon you have been hailed like that by the whole football world, basically, also for the way you reacted in that episode there. Was it just such a pure instinct in you or was it something you thought about, or do you think you would react in exactly the same way again if now something else unfortunate, and God forbid, is going to happen?”

Simon Kjær: “Yes, it came completely instinctively, and it is not really… so I had a very hard time ... I have - what can you say- put the evening together, because we all sat together afterwards, and went through what happened. So the whole evening, and the days afterwards, well quietly I put together what happened that evening.

So, I would never have gotten through that day, without being able to lean on all those around me. And the unity that we have and the unity that has always been on the national team. So it has been instinctive and yes, I would probably say I would react the same way, but at the same time you do not know. Because you can not prepare for those things.

And what happened, it happened and we all reacted in the best possible way, in the best faith, so I do not put so much in it, for me it was very natural.”

Simon Kjær about being named Denmark's Football Player of 2021

Simon Kjær's actions on the field that day in Parken will, as I said, always be linked to the story of him and his career. But so will his performance. And it is the achievements that have made his colleagues have named him Male Footballer of the Year 2021.

Simon Kjær: “It is, once again, a great honour to be named it. It will be something that is always incredibly close to me, and something that I am incredibly proud to have achieved. So it's amazing, I'm insanely proud and I can only thank many times those who voted for me. My colleagues, of course it also means extra much.”

"So it's amazing, I'm insanely proud and I can only thank many times those who voted for me."

- Simon Kjær about being named Denmark's Player of 2021

This is the second time in his career that Simon Kjær receives the award as Male Footballer of the Year. The first time was in 2009. Receiving it again consolidates his place in the distinguished company, which counts names such as Harald Nielsen, Preben Elkjær, Peter Schmeichel and Michael Laudrup, to name a few previous winners.

Simon Kjær: “Well, it is a privilege to be - what can you say - to have the opportunity and to have done yourself - what can you say - made it possible for you to get into that company. My name, it will always be there. So of course there are also some things that matter, once I finish playing football.

It will be something I can look back on and some things I will always be proud of. I think many times, when you start your career, you forget to enjoy these things and I will probably also forget something - now - when I come home, forget to say it to my wife, then we come home for Christmas, and then my mom and dad will say it, and then she gets mad at me, because I did not tell her about it. ”

Also worth watching: Interview Simon Kjær before Ballon d'Or 2021

Simon Kjær: “Because things just run, it goes so fast, in this world, so you just have to remember to sit down and take things in.

And now I will probably also remember to tell my wife this time. For now, I have made myself aware of it. But there are so many examples of where it has been one or the other, but that with just taking things in stride. But this will be something I can sometime when I get home to the old ones and I can take the boys with me, and then show them a trophy, and then I can say: `It was because dad became the football player of the year in 2021´.

Of course, it's also something I'm proud of to be able to show them. So it's great.”

What's Simon Kjær's recipe?

Dan: “And you became, you can say to your children, you have had an insanely good football year. Simon, if you have to cook it down like that, and encapsulate it in some way, what is so, so like this ... What is the recipe and what is the explanation for you having had such a wildly good football year? Because you've been on top of your football life more than ever before.”

Simon Kjær: “I think the balance between many things, I also think the year before was almost as good if you ask me. And personally. Then of course there are always some small things that come into play, because there is something called team success, so you get noticed even more, and then of course there is also something where you get credit and influence.”

Also worth reading: Quotes by Simon Kjær that will inspire you

Simon Kjær: “On those things according to what position you have, but of course to come back to the Champions League with Milan after 8 years, get in a semifinal to the European Championships, and then I think, it’s been a long time since I have played a bad international game. So, of course, it also comes into play, and there are so many little things, over the course of a career, over the course of a week, over the course of a few days, where things can change quite wildly.

It is often the coincidences that do it. But I have no control over the coincidences. I return a little to what I have control over. I have control over what I do myself. I know I live my life, in the best possible way for me to be successful on a football field. And I can be the best possible father when I go home and a husband. So of course that means I have the best conditions for me to play good football.”

"I have no control over the coincidences. I have control over what I do myself."

- Simon Kjær

Joakim Mæhle and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg about Simon Kjær

Simon Kjær won the award as Male Footballer of the Year 2021, ahead of Joakim Mæhle and Pierre Emile Højbjerg. We asked the two national team colleagues to put their captain's words into words.

Joakim Mæhle: “First of all, these are two I have always looked up to very much. Simon is a fantastic football player, a fantastic person, also went on to become a really good friend. You do that when you spend so much time together, and it's strange just a year and a half ago, they were people I had never met, but who I saw as superstars and who I looked up to. And I´m now sitting here in the same room as them.

But Simon has had a fantastic career, especially in the last couple of years, where he has been absolutely phenomenal, one of the best defenders in the world that you can also look at the great nomination he got for Ballon d´Or.

I think his positioning is fantastic, his play with the ball is - now I have to be careful what I say but - I remember that before it was maybe not as good as it is now when I have also sat and watched national matches. He has just evolved to be a defender at the very highest level in the world.”

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg: “I came in for what it is 8-9 years ago, 8 years ago on the national team. Where Simon ... where Daniel Agger was captain and Simon was partner. My defender. And the development Simon has also taken in relation to being a captain, in relation to being - now I say helmsman in the back chain, and of course up through the team, I think had been very, very impressive.

It has been with all the praise and all the recognition he gets is so much deserved because Simon is very, very conscious of what it means to help the team, what it means to be strong for the team. And it's something you need on every team, on every top team, you need a player from behind who, like, makes sure to set the tone for the team, for himself, for the surroundings, and there is Simon the front runner."

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg: “Front runner for all of us, in terms of taking responsibility, in terms of doing the right things, in terms of continuing to push the limit where it can be pushed, but also being aware of, `Okay` it's like the important thing and what is there is the important thing, what is it we can take responsibility and there is…

Not only on the field, with the qualities but also in personality that covers Simon many areas that benefit the national team, which benefits the players around him can flourish. And it is something that is, which is a great pleasure to be a part of.”

Joakim Mæhle: “Well he’s great for making people feel welcome. A very warm person, quiet and calm, his legs firmly planted on the ground, I have only known him for a little over a year, so it is not so much but I can say with 100 percent certainty that Simon is a great person and, will do everything for everyone on his team. Whether it is with Milan or on the national team that they are doing well.”

What does it mean to be a leader?

The definition of a leader is right there. A role he has grown into but which he has taken on from an early age to the greatest possible extent.

Simon Kjær: “Well but definitely there are some things I have been working on, of course, it has been lying to me somewhere natural. I've also been a captain before... when I was younger. I was also captain, 3 captain in Fenerbahçe, as the first foreigner in many many years, so it lies to me, it was natural to me.

Of course when I was asked - what can you say - if I wanted to be captain of the Danish national team by Åke, I knew very well I have a lot to learn. And I have to keep learning, I have to keep suck things in at myself, for the leaders I have had around me, and in the leaders who - what can you say - who have had an impact on me, throughout my career.

So the day I stop and do not feel I have nothing more to learn, well that's also the day I stop playing football. Whether it's being a leader or whether it's just the general thing I think, if you do not think you can improve, then I think you need to find something else to do.”

"If you do not think you can improve, then I think you need to find something else to do."

- Simon Kjær

How is Simon Kjær's recovery from his injury going?

And that's also how he goes about the rehabilitation process that the cruciate ligament injury threw him into.

Simon Kjær: “I love to play football, I love to go to training, the injury also now, well then, of course I would rather have been besides, I was a great place in my career, also in terms of level, the best football, in I do not know how many years, but at the same time having the opportunity now to be able to get to the bottom of some things in terms of training.

Now I just have a course that is not so fun until I can throw crutches and all this stuff. But it gives me some opportunities to work on some things that I have never had the opportunity to. I have played professional football in - yes trained uninterruptedly and have been playing matches for 20 years now. Professional football for 15-16-17 years, so it gives me an opportunity to go in and change some things on my body that I would have liked to have changed in the past."

Simon Kjær: “But I have actually talked often with my therapist and physiotherapist about such things that I really wanted to pull two months off the calendar, and then just - what can you say - work on some very specific things in relation to my body.

I have struggled for many years with my back and it is an exploit and there are so many things you can change, there are so many things to optimize all the time and I get an opportunity for that now. So just as tired I was of being hurt, and just as tired I am of it, just as positive I am also about getting in and working on a lot of exciting things and hopefully putting myself in the best positions to get back.

It sounds a bit clichéd, to become even stronger than I was before, but now I at least have an opportunity to work on a lot of things.”

"It sounds a bit clichéd, to become even stronger than I was before, but now I at least have an opportunity to work on a lot of things."

- Simon Kjær

Dan: “Simon, it may be mega hypothetical to ask you about it too, but are you better equipped somehow, to get such an injury and to come back from such an injury. Now here you are as a 32 year old, in fact are at the top of your career too than you had been just say 10 years ago.”

Simon Kjær: “I definitely think there are two aspects to it. There is no doubt that with my experience and my desire and my ability to set myself some things, and set some goals, and follow those goals at some point in my career now, I could not have been better off. With putting a program, work, I do not know, at present 6-7-8 hours a day. In the very small things, well, I might not have done that if I were 21.”

Also worth watching: Interview Simon Kjær - The Dads Club - Alle Vores Børn

Simon Kjær: “So I know I get the best possible conditions to come back even stronger. Then of course there is an aspect to it, when you are older, it can also be that things take longer to heal, and you never ever know what it's like. That is a question mark. But of course I believe 100 percent in it and am convinced of it.

It's only going to give me some opportunities, to prepare myself in the best possible way, to change some things too, to come back even stronger. So I find peace as I am completely calm about it, and look forward to the process.”

Simon Kjær: “Of course I was pissed off about it. I was tired of being hurt, but it has happened, I can do nothing about it, so I know one is out of my hands. It's a bit of some of the same things I've learned throughout my career. If I do not do my thing 100 percent, then I can do no more.

Ultimately, it's my coach who decides whether I play or not. But I have an influence on how I train, how I eat, how I sleep, how I do all that, next to the coach he makes his choices. So yeah, I'm very calm about it, I'm fine, my family is fine, then it's really just putting on the work gloves and if there's anything I like, it's putting them on and working. So it suits me just fine.”

"Ultimately, it's my coach who decides whether I play or not. But I have an influence on how I train, how I eat, how I sleep."

- Simon Kjær

Simon Kjær about the upcoming World Cup

Dan: “There's also a World Cup in about a year, is it like the situation you're in now, is it a huge motivation for you?”

Simon Kjær: “Yes and no. Yes of course I have to be ready for the World Cup, it's clear to me, it's not a question mark at all. But I also have a club that I have to be ready for as soon as possible, where I also use my head, because things take the time they take once in a while with this injury, so I also have to have patience and that will be perhaps my biggest challenge with this injury.

It happens that once in a while I just have to pull the handbrake, because there are some things that must be allowed to heal.”

Simon Kjær about AC Milan and Italy

Dan: “Simon you have had such a bit of a football nomadic existence, where you have been around in many clubs in reality, many countries too, you have ended up like this … Now you are in Milan, you have ended up in the right place in the right place shelf for you now at this point in your career and in your life?”

Simon Kjær: “Yes, I will say that. I did not want to go anywhere else and before I extended the contract there I had also told my agent that it does not matter who comes and in fact what amount came with if I could find solutions, the best solution with this club that I found, then there was no place I would rather be.

Because my family is fine. We live in Milan. Live in Italy. It's the country I love the most, in terms of culture, food, everything. So I could not be a better place. I enjoy every single day here. And at the same time, football is fantastic.

I am at a place where I have the opportunity to have a huge impact on and off the field. So I enjoy every second.”

Simon Kjær: “One must not misunderstand when I say that this is the country I love the most, it is in relation to my professional life. It's the way life is down here when I play football, all the opportunities that is, I also see a huge gift in that my children they go to international school and speak English, Italian, Swedish and Danish fluently.

It is also a huge privilege for me as a father, but to play in the red jersey for Denmark in Parken, it will be and is the biggest thing in my career. Being the captain of Denmark, and having played 119 matches, I think, is a huge privilege and something that I am proud of every time I do it. And yes as I started to get older, I need even more if who it is I am and my qualities for I want to play on the national team for as long as possible. It's an honour, and it's something I enjoy every single time.”

"Being the captain of Denmark, and having played 119 matches, I think, is a huge privilege."

- Simon Kjær

Simon Kjær about playing 119 matches for the national team

Dan: “You even say 119 matches, which also lurks an international record on the horizon. Had you ever imagined in your wildest imagination that you would play so many internationals? That's an insane number.”

Simon Kjær: “No I did not have it, I did not have it ... Of course I could see at some point that one could start ... Hey now we start to approach, and of course also now here when I was 119. But I have also learned in football one should not take some joys in advance. I have to take one match at a time, and now I miss at least a lot in both March and June.

So if I ever reach it then I reach it, but there is never ever anyone who can take from me I have played 119 international matches. And I'll probably get more too, but there's never anyone who can take the matches from me and the experiences I have and have been captain of the national team, the captain who has won the most matches I think. It will always be there, it will always be something I will be proud of.”

Hungry for more

He's proud, but he's also hungry, and he knows there are players who now have a chance to take his place. Because that is the nature of the sport. But when it comes to the 32-year-old defensive rock, they only get it when he himself says stop.

Simon Kjær: “For me, it's insanely much about the little details. The details of going to training to get better, to do my things 100 percent so I can feel I'm going and I can feel that I'm giving something to myself but also where I'm in my career, I'm giving something to the team. I give something to the people around me.

And I try - I have a player here who once in a while comes with his mobile phone inside the locker room, or into the gym when we are training, so I actually stop my training, go and take his phone, and then I lay it out in the locker room, and then I go in and then I start training again.

It's such little things that I really feel it gives me something, and I know it also gives others something. And as long as I feel I can keep those young guys behind me, work effort and I still feel I'm better than the others, then I have all the motivation I need.”

"For me, it's insanely much about the little details."

- Simon Kjær

Simon Kjær: “There's no one going to knock me out of my seat, that's when I say myself now it's about time. There I also believe and hope that I am so very realistic and so very aware of things own abilities that when the day comes, I also know it well myself. I do not have to be 2 violin I do not have to be 3 violin, I do not work in that, I want to be the best. I always want to be the best. I have always had a healthy humility but at the same time also an awareness that if I do not think I am then I am not either.

So those are two different things, and the people I play for space with, my center-back colleagues, I need to have the best relationships with because I need them so I can do my best. And that's a bit of that, I'll never ever get angry or annoyed that another center-back is playing in front of me. Because it has nothing to do with him, in reality. He does his thing, I do my thing and then there is a coach who decides. So it's a bit of that hunger, but my hunger has definitely gotten bigger, because I'll probably keep those guys behind me.”

You have listened to the players' association's podcast player to player. Thank you for listening.

Many thanks to Randi for the English translation.

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