I can remember exactly what I was doing when Christian Eriksen suffered his heart attack playing for Denmark last summer.
I was standing in a long queue for Euro 2020 accreditation outside Wembley. With only my mobile phone keeping me in touch with proceedings in Copenhagen, I feared Eriksen would not recover. As the long minutes passed without a positive update, I thought he was about to die on the pitch.
It is hard not to watch Eriksen play now without thinking about that day. Simply to see Eriksen back on the field playing for Brentford against his old club Tottenham on Saturday was as uplifting as anything I have witnessed in sport.
Christian Eriksen has thrived at Brentford since returning to the Premier League in January
His performances have seen him linked with a return to his former club Tottenham this summer
He played very well, too, as Brentford went toe to toe with Spurs in a fashion familiar under their enterprising and rather fearless coach Thomas Frank.
Brentford offered Eriksen a route back into football this January when none of our big clubs wanted to and it was typical of them because they are clever like that.
With Eriksen cleared by his doctors to resume playing, Frank and Brentford’s football director Phil Giles gambled and offered the 30-year-old a contract until the end of the season.
And it really was a risk. It was impossible to say Eriksen would return the same player. Even if he proved himself physically capable, it was not certain he would be as mentally resolute.
So Brentford took a risk nobody else was brave enough to. Nobody else was prepared to offer that route back for a player who desperately needed it.
Moving to Tottenham would see Eriksen reunited with ex-boss Antonio Conte
And now that Eriksen is back and playing as beautifully as ever, a queue is starting to form ahead of the summer transfer window. Eriksen is a wanted footballer again and the sadness of all this is that the club likely to lose out is Brentford.
After Saturday’s game Sky pundits Jermain Defoe and Jamie Redknapp discussed the matter and Frank himself was asked whether he thought he could hold on to the player. Everybody smiled and said nice things. Frank said the club would do their best while Redknapp agreed it would be a perfect ending to the story.
But nobody actually talked about the realities and the one thing that would probably determine Eriksen’s next move: the money.
Brentford are a marvellous club with a bright owner and a clever coach. But they are not wealthy and will not be so even after a year in the Premier League. They have a clear and modest player wage structure. Their top-earning player is not on much more than £40,000 a week.
Brentford took a gamble on Eriksen, and it would be great to see him remain loyal by staying
A good number of clubs now looking to take Eriksen as a free agent will be able to offer him twice that and indeed more.
Tottenham have been mentioned as one of the interested clubs and have not denied it. Their top earner is Harry Kane on £200,000 a week.
Eriksen is known in football as a decent and level sort but he is also human. Just because he is grateful for his second chance in the game, it does not mean he will overlook his own worth or ignore obvious career opportunities moving forwards.
So despite the rather miraculous nature of Eriksen’s comeback, this is likely to be the part where simple economics come into play.
It would be a wonderful thing if he agreed to stay at Brentford for the long-term but if he did I would be absolutely staggered.
RANGNICK’S WISDOM IS OUT OF DATE
Having seen his reputation as an actual coach travel backwards during his desperate time as Manchester United’s interim manager, Ralf Rangnick is now being hailed as a courageous speaker of previously untold truths.
The problem is that much of Rangnick’s wisdom is out of date. United supporters have been saying the same things down the pub for months.
The squad isn’t good enough. Attitudes are wrong. Recruitment has been poor. The players don’t look fit. The club needs a reboot.
Ralf Rangnick’s honest comments about his Man United squad have been refreshing to hear
However, he is not saying anything that incoming boss Erik ten Hag doesn’t already know
Listening to Rangnick talk about all of this has been refreshing simply because it’s all been so honest and therefore so rare.
But, contrary to an emerging view, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the 63-year-old is going to change the world in his much-discussed role as part-time Old Trafford football consultant.
United’s problems ahead of the arrival of their new coach Erik ten Hag are clear. And if the hierarchy at the club really does need Rangnick’s brand of plain speaking to spell them out then they are in even bigger trouble than we all thought they were.
PARACHUTE PAYMENTS ARE SO UNFAIR
Burnley have identified Chris Wilder as one of their preferred candidates for the job at Turf Moor, even if they do not win their fight against relegation from the Premier League.
It seems an ambitious call. Wilder already has a very good job at Middlesbrough and has said he would like to stay.
But clubs coming down from the top flight know they have a huge financial advantage over those that have been down with the dead men for a while and that’s because of the parachute payment system.
It gives them pulling power they don’t deserve and no wonder the Premier League clubs keep voting for it.
Burnley are keen on Chris Wilder, and the lure of parachute payments could help their cause
Graham Potter is one of our brightest coaches but having seen his Brighton team constantly play themselves into trouble in their own half at Manchester City last week, he may wish to simplify some of his instructions to goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.
Put your foot through it, son.