On this day in 2011, Leicester City captured the signing of highly-rated goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel from Leeds United as the Foxes began to rebuild following a season of uncertainty at the football club.
Appearing over 300 times in a City shirt, it is safe to say that the Danish international has had an instrumental impact since joining the Foxes and has enjoyed a lot of success while plying his trade on Filbert Way.
A mixed first season at the club
After being brought to King Power Stadium by former boss Sven Goran-Eriksson, Schmeichel didn’t get off to the best of starts in a Foxes shirt as he was sent off during his first clash with Nottingham Forest at The City Ground. The shot-stopper was given two yellow cards during a short period after moving the ball from the penalty spot as Lewis McGugan was about to kick it, before throwing it away once the Reds midfielder had scored it in a 2-2 draw.
He managed to put that mistake behind him though by putting in excellent performances throughout his maiden season with the Foxes, which included an outrageous close-range reflex save versus Portsmouth in November 2011. After making 52 appearances during 11/12 and keeping 17 clean sheets in the process, Schmeichel was named as City’s Player of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year for his terrific impact and displays at the club.
Schmeichel's success in the Championship
Following Nigel Pearson’s appointment and rebuild at Leicester during the summer, the Dane continued to flourish moving into the new campaign. His performances at the beginning of 12/13 eclipsed the previous season, establishing a formidable partnership with centre-backs Wes Morgan and Zak Whitbread, while Ritchie De Laet and Michael Keane also had a big factor in that defensive record. He earned a place in the Championship PFA Team of the Year alongside Morgan, while also helping Leicester into the play-offs that season, which inevitably ended with defeat to Watford in the semi-finals.
However, despite that setback, Schmeichel and his Leicester teammates went one better the following season, winning promotion to the top-flight for the first time in 10 years. The former Manchester City keeper was influential in conceding the third-fewest goals in the division and guiding the side to precious victories over their closest rivals along the way. The 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers just before Christmas summed that Leicester side up, as defensively they were immaculate, powerful on the counter-attack, and Schmeichel was at the forefront of that with some super stops.
As well as being crucial at saving goals at one end, Schmeichel almost scored at the other during a 1-1 draw against Yeovil back in March 2014. He met Danny Drinkwater’s cross in the dying embers before crashing a header against the bar and Chris Wood knocked in the rebound, with many suggesting the keeper’s effort had already crossed the line.
Return to the top-flight
At the end of 13/14 season, he was rewarded with a new four-year deal, earmarking his impact at the Foxes since his arrival and earning a place in their plans for the new season. After a shaky start to Leicester’s Premier League adventure in their first top-flight campaign for 10 years, Schmeichel played in City’s 5-3 win over Manchester United, but suffered a broken metatarsal just before Christmas which ruled him out for around three months.
This was his longest injury lay-off and a frustrating one for the keeper while City were scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the division. They kept just four clean sheets in a 27-match spell between September and April as they were put to the test in the top division.
However, Schmeichel returned in time for the final 10 games, where Leicester won seven of them to complete the ‘Great Escape’ and retain their status in the top tier of English football. He played a vital role in that famous run, spearheading defensive masterclasses and keeping clean sheets against Swansea City, Burnley, Newcastle United, Southampton and Sunderland in the process. This good form earned him a nomination for April’s Player of the Month award but didn't end win the award.
When Claudio Ranieri was appointed following Pearson’s departure at the beginning of the 15/16 season, many tipped Leicester to struggle, and despite not keeping a shut-out until the 10th matchday in the league, City were flying otherwise. The Foxes improved defensively as the season wore on and a lot of that was down to Schmeichel’s smart stops and leadership from the back. He kept his 15th and final clean sheet of the season in an impressive 4-0 win over Swansea which put Leicester on the brink of a first top-flight triumph in their history.
Even though City conceded just 36 goals in 38 games en route to their title success, Schmeichel missed out on the inaugural Golden Glove award as Petr Cech secured that feat, pipping the Foxes keeper by one clean sheet (16). Despite linking him with moves elsewhere in the summer of 2016, Schmeichel committed his future to the Foxes by signing a new five-year deal which would take him to his 10th campaign as a Blue.
Reputation for saving penalties in key moments
The Leicester no.1 has also built up a reputation for his penalty-saving antics over the years and it became useful in the Champions League last 16 against Sevilla. He stopped a spot-kick in each leg - from Joaquin Correa and Steven Nzonzi respectively which helped City edge the tie 3-2 and progress into the quarter-finals of the competition for the first-ever time. It was an impressive season for the Dane, who scooped Leicester’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season award – both for the second time which justified another outstanding campaign in the City net.
After an up and down 17/18, Schmeichel missed the Foxes’ final five matches of that season through injury which led to doubts whether he’d be fit enough to represent Denmark at the World Cup in Russia. However, he made the 23-man squad and played a vital part in their passage to the last 16.
Schmeichel saved Luka Modric’s last-gasp spot-kick to take the game to penalties, and despite saving two in the shootout, Croatia progressed in that tie. Since he’s been at Leicester, the 6”2 keeper has become a full international for his country and has played for The Red and White 53 times and is poised to make many more in his career.
At 33 years of age, Schmeichel is still performing to the highest level, and since the Premier League’s restart, he has produced some top saves - against Watford in their first game back - before putting in a Man of the Match display versus Brighton & Hove Albion. He saved Neal Maupay’s penalty in the side’s stalemate which was his fifth top-flight spot-kick stop since plying his trade at this level.
When you look at the players who were involved in the title-winning season and Champions League run the year after and access those key men, Schmeichel should be up there as one of the Leicester greats and best-ever in his position. Appearing over 200 times in the Premier League is no mean feat, and when you consider his start to life at the Foxes, what he has achieved deserves legendary status at the club.