5 MINUTES WITH...
His name will go down in Evertonian folklore, unfortunately for all of the wrong reasons.
A few weeks ago I caught up with the Former Danish International, who was kind enough to chat to me about his short stay at Goodison Park...
It was the summer of 2005, on the back of a fantastic season in which Everton had remarkably broken into the Premier League top 4 and reached the qualification stages for the UEFA Champions League. The club inevitably looked to strengthen the squad, with a view to reaching the lucrative group stages of the competition and re-establishing the club back on the European stage.
It was an ambitious summer transfer window that would see the Toffees bring in some solid European experience, in the form of two previous Champions League Winners – Phil Neville from Manchester Utd alongside Portuguese Left Back Nuno Valente, signed from Porto. Further European experience was added in the form of Dutch winger Andy Van Der Meyde, signed from Inter Milan after a relatively underwhelming spell with the Nerrazurri. Simon Davies, a well-established Premier League player with Spurs at the time, was brought in to bolster the midfield, alongside Mikel Arteta who signed permanently after a successful loan spell the previous season. Undoubtedly, the biggest unknown of Everton's summer shopping spree was Danish International defender Per Kroldrup, signed for around £5m from Italian club Udinese, who incidentally had also qualified for the UEFA Champions League the previous season.
Kroldrup had been part of the Denmark national team at the 2004 European Championship and had 13 International caps to his name. Known in Serie A for being comfortable and classy on the ball he was undoubtedly seen as the long term successor of the ageing David Weir at the heart of Everton’s defence. David Moyes was delighted with the capture of Kroldrup at the time…
"We are delighted to have Per on board " Moyes said when he signed for £5M, easily a club record for a defender. "He will be a part of a squad that has a big season ahead "
"He is young and we hope he will continue to improve and develop as much as he has done over the years that we have been monitoring him."
Kroldrup’s career at the Blues got off to a bad start before a ball had even been kicked, when a groin injury required surgery, meaning he would miss the first 2 months of the season at his new club. Despite this unfortunate start, was Kroldrup confident that he could be a success in England, or was it a move that seemed doomed from the off…?
“Upon arriving at Everton I was confident I was going to do well at the club, but with training I soon realised it was a very different kind of football in England, and that was clearly seen in my debut vs Aston Villa…”
The debut he speaks of, seemed to be a long time in coming, for both the player and fans alike. After recovering from his injury and returning to full training, Kroldrup spent a remarkable run of games as an unused substitute on the Blues bench. Rumours began circulating amongst fans concerning his ability and performances in training. There was even talk around the club that Udinese would be due further payments once Kroldrup had made 5 appearances in an Everton shirt, following the disappointing early departure from the Champions League at the hands of Pierluigi Collina, I mean Villarreal…. Was the club already looking to save money on their investment and ship him back out?
Following some poor performances and errors from David Weir in back to back defeats in December, the fans finally got their wish as Kroldrup was handed his Everton debut on Boxing Day 2005, in an away trip to Villa Park.
It happened to be a boxing day to forget for Evertonians, as the Blues were absolutely thumped 4-0 in a disaster debut for Kroldrup. The Dane looked shell shocked at the pace and sheer physicality of the English game. Villa sensed blood that day and Milan Baros and co ran riot.
Although admittedly looking uncomfortable throughout, Per Kroldrup was not alone that day in having an absolute nightmare. In fact, this was not a result to be looked at in isolation, as Everton had just come off the back of another 4-0 hammering, at home the week before to Bolton Wanderers.
A season that had started with so much hope and potential for Evertonians was going downhill fast, the club had been swiftly dumped out of the Champions League at the first hurdle and then elimination from the UEFA Cup soon followed. As the year drew to a close, things were looking pretty bleak for the Blues.
As for Kroldrup, just one single further appearance came in an Everton shirt and he was quickly packed off back to Italy, signing for Fiorentina just 31 days after making his debut for the Toffees. To add insult to injury, Kroldrup had a successful return to Italy and was voted in the Italian Associated Press ‘Serie A Team of the Year’ that same season…
So, was the move to Everton something that Kroldrup regrets? If he had his time back, would he never have made the move to Goodison Park?
“I do regret it a little, but I have good memories. I just don’t know what happened when I got to Everton, I think it was a complete game changer for me.”
“If I went back some time ago, I don’t know if I would make that decision to go there again, but I do have good memories of the club itself and the people at the club, since they all behaved well with me”
“In Italy it is more technical and you have to play the ball to a team mate to get out of a difficult situation. In England, you just kick the ball.”
He is not alone in that last opinion, Andy Van Der Meyde recently said something similar in one of his YouTube interviews with Dusan Tadic, when asked about his time at Everton…
"It was shit. There were only two players who could play football, the rest were just running and kicking the ball. It's unbelievable.”
Although it has to be said, Van Der Meyde’s comments can be taken with a pinch of salt. The Former Dutch international was the architect of his own downfall at Everton and his career was ruined by some poor off field decisions and unprofessional behaviour.
He is now best known for his clowning about on Social Media, which he uses to broadcast his bitter opinions on a career that promised so much but delivered so little.
Anyway, I digress, back to Per Kroldrup…
Per went on to be a success at Fiorentina, making over 100 appearances in a 6 year spell at the club, playing and scoring in the UEFA Champions League. So with the quality of player that he has come up against in his time in Serie A, as well as those in European Competition, just who is the best player he has come up against, I asked...
“I faced many top players in my career, players like Zlatan, Eto’o, Totti, Pato etc. but the best one has to be Messi when I played against him in 2008, he is from another planet!”
So, given the quality of the aforementioned players that Kroldrup has come up against, are we really to believe that his fate in the Premier League was sealed in a single game by an ageing Milan Baros? Was there more to the story? The case of Per Kroldrup really is a curious one…
Now retired from professional football, I asked Per what he is doing with his time …
“Lately I’m travelling the world, although less now that I’m 40! I ride my bike and exercise a lot, I am normally around Florence and Denmark but I follow soccer and all of my ex teams, I know that someday I will be a coach”
I would like to thank Per for his time and for being so approachable and open about his time at Everton, best of luck for the future Per!