Danish journalist reveals why ‘Spurs fans are going to love Hojbjerg’

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg came through the youth ranks at Brondby IF in Denmark before signing for Bayern Munich II in 2012.

As a teenager, the midfielder managed to impress enough within Bayern Munich’s B-team set-up in order to earn a promotion to the senior squad.

Despite never making more than 13 appearances in a season for the German heavyweights, Hojbjerg worked under managers such as Pep Guardiola and saw multiple Bundesliga titles and a Champions League come into the club during his time (Wikipedia).

After loan spells in the Bundesliga with Augsburg and Schalke, Hojbjerg made the permanent switch to Southampton in 2016, taking to the Premier League like a duck to water.

By the time he turned 23, Hojbjerg was a Premier League captain, performing admirably for four seasons before earning his recent move to Tottenham.

Danish football expert and journalist, Jonas Bo Nielsen, who works for the Premier League broadcaster rights-owner in Denmark (TV2) has now given the inside scoop on Hojbjerg and why Spurs fans will love him.

On Hojbjerg’s early career, Bo Nielsen said (Tottenham): “He was the big star in the youth team in Denmark – his coach was Thomas Frank who is now the coach at Brentford. He was captain and a very big talent. At the age of 16, Bayern Munich bought him. He was playing for the second team of Bayern in his first year in Germany – a really hard year of learning. Then, Pep Guardiola took him to up (to the first team) after about a year and at the age of 17, he was the youngest player in Bayern Munich’s history to play in the Bundesliga, so there was a lot of hype in Denmark at that time. When he was 18 years old, the Danish national coach called him up. I can remember his debut against Sweden. He was playing fantastically – he came from the bench and was playing against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and he did a lot of good things in the half-an-hour that he got. Then he was on everyone’s minds in Denmark at the age of 18.”

On the turning point in Hojbjerg’s career, he added: “The perception changed a bit because, of course, he was with Southampton for four years and also when Denmark got the new coach, Åge Hareide, he was a little bit out of the team for a couple of years. He needed to develop and needed to be a man. I visited him in Winchester a couple of years ago when he was almost forgotten in Denmark because he wasn’t playing in the national team or Southampton. He was a big star as a youngster, but it had fallen apart a bit – he told himself he needed to set himself three goals in 2018, saying: ‘I need to get back in the team at Southampton, to get back into the national team and to be captain at Southampton.’ He completed all of those goals in about six or seven months. I think that was the turning point for him as a player and a person as he knew he could do it.

“You need to understand that when he was a youngster, he was hyped training with players at 17 years old like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Xabi Alonso, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer – he was training with these at Bayern, of course. So it is natural that there comes a point when everything isn’t that great. He had that for a couple of years from 20 to 22 but then the turning point came a couple of years ago and he hasn’t looked back. He is playing in the national team again and, of course, this contract (at Spurs) is a big dream for him. In the last 18 months, I think he has developed as a player and he has always wanted to take a big load onto his shoulders. When he was young, he was captain of the youth teams in Denmark and I think when he gets the recognition and the responsibilities, he grows as a player – I think that is what has happened over the last couple of years. The different coaches at Southampton have had him as captain and that is just good for a player like Pierre to get that responsibility.”

Bo Nielsen also spoke about Hojbjerg’s character and positional play:

“He’s vocal and a leader – he has always been a leader. He’s a team man. He’s very into this project because he is a coach man – if the coach says run, he’ll run. He’s humble in that way. When he was a youngster, he had to be told not to run as much because he was running all over the field. Now he is older, he knows when to run and when to relax. Besides being a leader, and I saw it in the interview he gave to the Club a couple of days ago, he still knows that he needs to learn and needs to develop. I think that’s why Tottenham sees big potential in him because he is not too big for the Club, he is a working man and does what is best for the team.

“He plays with his heart. In Denmark after a national game against Serbia when he was very young, he actually cried after the game in an interview. (He was) very emotional, playing with his heart and, of course, that made him even more famous in Denmark because we have a player here who is showing real emotions and national feelings. Today, he’s a little bit different in letting his emotions come out in that way but, the public, they love him because he shows so much passion on the field. He’s a very good guy. He lost his father to cancer at the age of 18 and it was a very hard period when living alone in Germany. He had been living alone since he was 16 and that is not very normal for players in Denmark. For most of them, they are afraid of doing what he did, leaving at the age of 16.

“He’s very good on the ball – he has been since he was a youth player and, of course, training under Pep Guardiola, learning his principles at a young age at Bayern Munich, he has that as a base. But he is also a pitbull. He is a big guy, his legs are so thick, he’s physically strong and has a good running capacity. As a youngster he was playing further up the field – sometimes a 10 with the Danish Under-21 side. Of course, the last couple of years, he’s been playing more like a six. He’s always thinking forward when he passes and he likes to be on the ball, always letting his team-mates know that he is available to get the ball and move forward. He’s offensively-minded but also, in the last couple of years, he’s been one of the best players in the Premier League in terms of getting the ball back from the opponent. So, he has a bit of both worlds I would say.”

Finally, when asked about his expectations regarding Hojbjerg’s Tottenham move, Bo Nielsen claimed: “I think he will have the impact that Jose Mourinho will be able to count on him for. There is a very important link between him and Mourinho. He is a 100 per cent player. He will do everything in his power to make Tottenham better and he is 100 per cent dedicated. If he gets the time on the field, you get a player that always gives 100 per cent. For him, it’s a new start. I think you will see his leadership. You will see him telling his team-mates what to do, running around and shouting – being a leader in defensive midfield. He will do that hard work for the more offensive players. He will be a good player and I think the fans are going to love him because you know what you’re going to get – he is a no-nonsense player. In a way, having been in England for years, he’s kind of British now. But he’s the kind of player that the fans will like because he plays with the heart, but he also plays with the ball and plays forward.”

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