It takes a special talent to break into a first team as a teenager and instantaneously become a key player.
In the case of Mikkel Damsgaard, that step came at the tender age of 17 when he was thrusted into the limelight at FC Nordsjaelland and, over the course of three seasons, the winger scored 13 and assisted 21 in 93 appearances.
Now, the Dane plies his trade with Serie A side Sampdoria, has become a full senior international and, at just 21 years of age, will be an important member of Denmark’s Euro 2020 squad this summer.
So, ahead of the big tournament, we at 90min thought we’d take you through what you should know about the Red and Whites’ young prospect.
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For a maiden campaign in one of Europe’s top five leagues, there’s been plenty to shout about for the youngster.
In a side that combines level-headed experience with youthful exuberance, Damsgaard has been one of the stand-outs. Although his two goals and four assists in this season’s Serie A campaign aren’t exactly mind-blowing, the way he has acclimatised and established himself in a totally new environment – missing just two league games when fit – deserves a lot of praise.
Indeed, his performances throughout the season have got the attention of Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand, who gave Damsgaard his international debut back in November (in which he registered an assist) and a second cap in March (in which he scored a brace and assisted a further two in an 8-0 thrashing of Moldova).
Damsgaard’s creative nous has given him a remarkable versatility up to this point in his career. The Dane has previously featured as a deep central midfielder, attacking midfielder and a central striker, but it is undeniably as a left winger that he is best utilised.
His playmaking ability makes him hugely dangerous both out wide and when he cuts inside and drifts centrally to impact proceedings with his favoured right foot – a trait that is common among elite wingers in the modern game.
While Damsgaard doesn’t have blistering pace and is reluctant to act as a traditional winger, his ability to cut in and create is similar to Andres Iniesta when he played as a wide man, with Frank Rijkaard once describing the Barcelona legend as a ‘false winger’.
The most suitable comparison is possibly to Real Sociedad’s Adnan Januzaj, however. The former Manchester United man has never been too much of a physical presence but his playmaking ability combined with his skill on the ball make him similar to Damsgaard.
“Damsgaard has done very well to settle in Italy and in Italian football. He is alert and learns easily. I think his position on the field is being defined, he has played excellent games, but also as an attacking midfielder and behind the strikers, so he can play anywhere up front.”
– Carlo Osti, Sampdoria sporting director
“I can say that in my view Damsgaard is an enfant prodigy.”
– Claudio Ranieri
At this moment in time you can find Damsgaard with a base overall rating of 74 on FIFA 21. Although his potential reaches just 83, the fact that he has the ‘long shot-taker’ and ‘flair’ traits as well as 4* skill moves makes him an exciting player to use in game.
And, with a weekly salary of just under €10,000, he’s well worth the investment.
Damsgaard hasn’t been given the coveted ‘wonderkid’ tag on Football Manager, but he is still likely to go on and make it as an elite winger in the game.
Here are his base stats in FM:
And here they are nine seasons into a save:
Throughout the 2020/21 campaign the Sampdoria man has been modelling the Nike Phantom GT Elite DF (don’t ask us what all that means), so he’ll likely pick up a European Championships version of those.
Hjumland favours the experience of Martin Braithwaite and Yussuf Poulsen in wide areas, while play-maker Christian Eriksen is virtually undroppable in that number ten role, so there likely won’t be all that many opportunities to start for 21-year-old Damsgaard.
However, the Denmark coach has made no secret of his excitement and admiration of the young talent in his squad, and firmly believes they could play a part in any success the side may have this summer and in years to come.
So, there will definitely be a part to play for Damsgaard and, with his undoubted quality and creative spark, he will be one of Denmark’s most dangerous weapons at the tournament.