Eight things you didn’t know about potential Everton manager Kasper Hjulmand

With Rafael Benitez set to be the next Premier League managerial casualty, we take an in-depth look at Kasper Hjulmand - the man who could potentially replace him at Goodison Park.

Kasper Hjulmand rose to prominence after guiding Denmark to the semi-finals of the European Championships.

Following the tournament, the 49-year-old caught the eye of a number of clubs across the continent. That includes the likes of Everton who may be in the market for a new manager should their poor form continue under Benitez.

With that in mind, here are eight things you maybe didn't know about Kasper Hjulmand.

Playing spell in America

At the age of 22, Hjulmand left Denmark to pursue his career in the United States. The midfielder was recruited by North Florida Ospreys - a soccer team which represents the University of North Florida.

In 18 appearances for the club, Hjulmand scored six goals and produced one assist. But above all, it was in America where his knowledge of the game and tactical sense began to shine through.

Due to the overwhelming Florida heat, the player was forced to adapt his style to the harsh conditions. Hjulmand, who was a high-intensity player, changed his style by utilising his heading ability and ceasing to chase opponents around the field.

One of his former Florida team-mates, Mark Cagnassola, told American news outlet jacksonville.com: "Back in the early 1990s, there were a lot of American players that were big, had the physical size, but they didn't have the touch. Kasper was a guy that had both."

Early retirement

In the winter of 1995, Hjulmand joined Danish First Division side B93. The midfielder was just 23 years old when he arrived yet just three seasons later, he was forced to hang up his boots.

The player endured a total of nine knee operations before deciding to call it a day at the age of 26.

Hjulmand went immediately into coaching and found a position as the youth team coach at Lyngby Boldklub.

The midfielder had previous coaching experience in America where he worked as an assistant coach for a boys' soccer team at Bishop Kenny High School.

Hjulmand was the assistant to Ray Bunch - the same man who coached him while playing for the North Florida Ospreys.

Breakthrough at Lyngby

The early 2000s was a difficult time for Lyngby Boldklub. In December 2001, the club went bankrupt and was forced to finish theseason with amateur players.

As a result of their financial problems, Lyngby went from the heights of the Superliga all the way down to the fourth tier. Nevertheless, the club began to work their way up the league pyramid under the stewardship of Hasse Kuhn and Bent Christensen.

At the same time, Hjulmand was leading the youth team and began putting in place the foundations for the future.

Lyngby are a club that pride themselves on youth development and Hjulmand was able to build on that reputation during his early years in management.

When it eventually came time to step up to the big seat, Hjulmand was a man ready to prove his worth.

In his first season, the Dane led the first team to a third-place finish in the second tier - their highest finish since bankruptcy.

The next campaign was even better as Hjulmand's side won 18 of their 30 games to win the league and clinch promotion back to the top division.

Lyngby's return to the top only lasted one season as they finished last and suffered relegation. Hjulmand moved on but his spell at Lyngby was certainly a memorable one.

It's also noteworthy to mention some of the other names who worked at the club during Hjulmand's tenure. Current Brentford manager Thomas FrankAston Villa's sporting director Johan Lange, and the defending Danish champion with Brondby, Niels Frederiksen, were all working with the youth team and shared an office with Hjulmand.

History-maker with Nordsjaelland

Nordsjaelland's Pascal Gregor (L) receives the ball from his head coach Kasper Hjulmand during the friendly soccer match between FC St. Pauli and FC Nordsjælland at Millerntor Stadium in Hamburg, Germany, 26 January 2013.

FC Nordsjaelland enjoyed a successful spell under manager Morten Wieghorst between 2006 and 2011. The club's two Danish Cup triumphs came during his tenure but his impact goes beyond that.

Wieghorst was the man who brought Hjulmand to the club in order to work as his assistant from 2008. In the three years they worked together, Nordsjaelland's place in the standings gradually improved although hopes of a title remained slim.

At the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Wieghorst moved on to manage Denmark's under-21 team. Instead of looking for a new manager, Nordsjaelland gave the 39-year-old Hjulmand the position. It was a decision they wouldn't regret.

After a run of 21 wins from 33 games, the club won their first ever league title with a two-point advantage over FC Copenhagen.

A year later, Hjulmand delivered another historic achievement as the club qualified for the Champions League group stages.

The Danes were drawn alongside Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk and defending European champions Chelsea. Unsurprisingly, they only managed to pick up a point and suffered elimination. That point was still a historic one, though, as they held Italian champions Juve to a 1-1 draw.

The manager left the club in 2014 but his achievements with the Tigers will go down in history.

Jurgen Klopp is a big fan

Dortmund's head coach Juergen Klopp (L) and Mainz's head coach Kasper Hjulmand before the German Bundesliga soccer match between FSV Mainz and Borussia Dortmund at Coface Arena in Mainz, Germany, 20 September 2014.

Hjulmand is a popular figure in Denmark but he also has some high-profile admirers from across the continent.

One of those is Jurgen Klopp who once told Allgemeine Zeitung: "Kasper, an extremely personable, pleasant guy, made an outstanding impression on me. What we discussed about soccer tactics wasn't just fun, it was sensational.

"They had a budget in Nordsjaelland, so each of my players in Dortmund could have acted as the main sponsor with their salary."

Mainz gone wrong

Mainz fans thank manager Kasper Hjulmand, 21 February 2021

Following his heroics in Denmark, it wasn't long before bigger opportunities came calling.

One of those was with Bundesliga side FSV Mainz. The German outfit was in need of a new manager following the departure of current Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel.

The expectations on Hjulmand were big from the outset as the club presented him as a perfect fit for Mainz. Christian Heidel, the man responsible for bringing the Dane to Germany, described him as a meticulous coach and praised his high level of expertise.

Despite all the superlatives, Hjulmand struggled for results and lasted only seven months before returning to Denmark. The manager left the club in 14th place, while his final game was a 4-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund managed by the one and only Jurgen Klopp.

Speaking out for the rights of people with disabilities

Kasper Hjulmand hopes Ajax links give Denmark edge over Wales in Amsterdam

The main reason behind his return to Denmark was down to a family issue.

Hjulmand and his family were left badly shaken after an incident at one of Denmark's institutions for people with learning disabilities - a place where his brother Simon resided.

An individual at the home died after being restrained by its staff. The news had a big impact on Hjulmand who spoke about the incident in Morten Glinvand's book, Football Dreams.

He said: "It is time that we focus on the situation for disabled people in Denmark.

"Denmark have signed up to the UN's convention on the rights of persons with disabilities to ensure that everyone in Denmark, notwithstanding which disability they have, have the same possibilities to live a meaningful life."

Wasn't meant to be the national team coach at Euro 2020

Denmark Head Coach Kasper Hjulmand (R) celebrates after winning Wales during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between Wales and Denmark at Johan Cruijff Arena on June 26, 2021

In 2019 it was announced that Hjulmand would be taking over as Denmark's new manager following Euro 2020.

At that time, Age Hareide was expected to lead the team into the tournament - his final act as national team boss before moving on.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the tournament was rescheduled and as a result, Denmark's plans changed.

Hjulmand was thrown into the role and despite limited preparation time, he endured one of the most tumultuous months of his career.

Soccer geek turned national icon

Kasper Hjulmand of Denmark after Denmark against Austria, World Cup Qualification at Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark on October 12, 2021.

Hjulmand's appointment as national team coach was seen as controversial at the time. While Hareide was a pragmatist, his successor was on the other end of the scale. He was a proponent of an attractive style of soccer and strongly believed he could mould the Danes into an attacking superpower.

Many in Denmark saw the 49-year-old as a soccer geek but over the course of a month at the European Championships, that perception quickly changed.

Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest during Denmark's opening Euro 2020 clash with Finland was the moment in which Hjulmand not only became a voice for the team but in fact, the entire nation.

The manager's sense of sensitivity and an admirable degree of dignity steered the country through a highly emotional period.

If that wasn't enough, the results on the pitch were simply remarkable too. Denmark, who entered the tournament as 28/1 underdogs, progressed to the knockout stages thanks to a thumping 4-1 win over Russia.

Inspired by Eriksen's recovery, the Danes kept on going with wins over Wales and the Czech Republic.

Hjulmand's team were eventually stopped in the semi-final by Gareth Southgate's England. A controversial penalty for the Three Lions sealed the win in extra-time. Nevertheless, it was Denmark who were seen as the tournament's real heroes.

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