Farewell Viking: Simon Kjaer’s Milan dream approaches a bittersweet end

By Oliver Fisher -

While the spotlight will shine brightly on Stefano Pioli and Olivier Giroud during Saturday night’s game against Salernitana, Simon Kjaer will also bid farewell to AC Milan.

After weeks of speculation about whether or not he would pen a new deal, the agent of Kjaer – Mikkel Beck – confirmed a couple of weeks ago that the defender will leave Milan at the end of the season on a free transfer once his contract expires.

Kjaer arrived at Milan on an initial loan deal in the spring of 2020 together with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to add experienced strength to the young Milan team that had started the season dreadfully under Marco Giampaolo.

A 5-0 defeat against Atalanta in Bergamo under the then-new head coach Stefano was rock bottom for many supporters, highlighting the fragile mentality and defensive incompetence of the squad.

The idea behind the Dane’s arrival was to rectify some of those issues, and the fact he earned a permanent deal and since then he has made 120 appearances for Milan speaks volumes.

Kjaer provided an abundance of leadership, something that he has naturally accrued over his decade and a half playing at the highest level and with his many experiences across different countries.

The Dane very much falls into the ‘senator’ category as a vocal organiser of the defence out on the field, and when he was at his best physically there is no doubting that he was a great asset to the rearguard as well as an excellent mentor for the younger players.

In his four and a half years – characterised by a Scudetto win and a Champions League semi-final – Kjaer at times managed to find that consistency that perhaps he had practically never managed to in his previous career experiences.

He can leave the Rossoneri feeling certain of having given everything for a shirt that has always been his dream since he was a boy, something that his agent actually confirmed.

“It is a natural farewell to a club where Simon has loved playing for more than four years – at a time that feels right,” he said.

“Many years ago, Simon told me that one day he wanted to play for AC Milan, and that dream came true in the most beautiful way. And in fact, Milan became the club where Simon has played the most matches.

“For Simon, it is a perfect situation. He will play the European Championship this summer as Denmark’s captain, and then he will go on a free transfer.”

One of the things that immediately springs to mind when reflecting on Kjaer’s time at Milan, especially with more recent history, is the volume of physical problems that he has had. And there have been a lot of them.

Transfermarkt have 15 different problems noted down in the centre-back’s ‘injury history’ page, for a total of 82 games missed from club and country from January 2020 onwards. Simply put, he has been tormented.

The biggest injury he suffered was the cruciate ligament tear on 1 December 2021. Given that he was well into his 30s at that point and has never been blessed with explosive athleticism, some thought that might be the end of Kjaer playing high-level games again.

And yet, instead he set about on a long recovery process – 182 days to be exact – regaining his strength gradually and then returning to being a key part of the defensive rotations into last season.

It isn’t only the difficulties that should be highlighted though, because there were many performances from Kjaer during the last four-and-a-half years that demonstrated his value and ability to contribute on the biggest stage.

The equaliser at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the Europa League was an early memory, while the man of the match performance in the away win against Roma during the Scudetto season was monumental.

It is on the European nights during last season’s run to the Champions League semi-final that immortalised the former Palermo and Roma man, though. The man-marking job he did on world class centre-forward Harry Kane in the first leg win over Spurs at San Siro instantly springs to mind.

Although he missed out in the return leg, Kjaer started both games against Napoli and was outstanding alongside Fikayo Tomori in each game, keeping Khvicha Kvaratskhelia quiet in the first game in Victor Osimhen’s absence, and then doing the same to the Nigerian a week later.

We can learn a lot about a man from his words, and Simon Kjaer has often made it very well known just how much he loves being a Milan player, expressing gratitude for the chance to realise a childhood ambition.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m at the place I want to be. I play at Milan, I feel good at Milan and I place a lot of hope in myself. But whether the decision is made now or in two months, nothing changes for me,” he said back in March.

“We were seventh or eighth when I arrived four years ago. Now we are in the Champions League every season. If I can stay at Milan I’m very happy. It’s always the club I’ve tried to get to, since the first time I went to Palermo.

“If it’s not Milan, then I’m 35 years old and I can freely choose what I want with my family. It doesn’t worry me. I’m fine with it. I think everyone knows me. I’m proud of what I do. But they don’t come and ask me to be different.

“Right now I am in the place I have always wanted to be. I have had a beautiful football journey, I always wanted to play for Milan and I have an incredibly beautiful life in Milan. It’s Italy. My wife is Swedish, so Denmark is not her home, just as Sweden is not mine.”

A man can also be judged on the sum of their actions, and everyone remembers Kjaer’s response after his team-mate Christian Eriksen collapsed at the last European Championships in 2020.

It was a frightening and harrowing experience for all involved, yet the Danish captain somehow managed to act quickly and decisively. He put Eriksen in the recovery position, started the initial CPR procedure and led the Danish players in forming a ring around the midfielder as he received medical attention before comforting his partner.

The word ‘hero’ is often overused, but it applies perfectly to how Kjaer reacted in such a difficult situation, demonstrating his extraordinary character as well as his empathy and human values.

Saturday against Salernitana will also be ‘the last dance’ for Kjaer, and he will get the ovation that he deserves from the over 70,000 fans. The ‘Viking’ has arguably been as important in the rebirth of this Milan as Ibrahimovic and Pioli were, but the time has come – just as it did for them – to pass the baton.

If a player arrives at Milan, contributes in a meaningful way, gives their all in every situation and feels such a strong attachment to the club, then nobody can grumble. If all new signings were like Kjaer, the club would be in very safe hands.

Tags AC Milan Simon Kjaer


  1. I remember him at a young age in the danish club fc midtjylland and when he was at palermo i wanted us to sign him but i can say he wasnt lying in regard of wanting to play for ac milan as there was an career wise early danish tv interview where he said he hoped he would one day come and play for us.
    In my book he is probably the biggest leader in the team even if a bit less outspoken as ibra but a true class act, Unfortunately even i will have to agree that his time has come but i suspect he will play some more years and knowing how much i know he loves the country i wouldnt exclude him staying there for a couple of more years, I would like to see him join Monza or return home to the danish league.

    1. Thank you for the background.

      Agree he is such a legend.

      One question – I didn’t follow his career too closely before Milan but it strikes me we were his first ‘big club’ and the peak of his career – is that right?

      The reason I ask is because when we signed him and Ibra we brought in ready made experience and leadership, and with Ibra especially he guaranteed a Scudetto being a serial league winner.

      I didn’t think Kjaer white fit into this category although he ended up doing as much as Ibra.

      Should we be looking for another Kjaer – a (for want of a better word) journeyman who finally finds his place and leads the team to glory?

      Or am I not appreciating his career before Milan?

      1. No problem.

        Well i would say so in regard of the danish international team as he is the most capped player ever there but i think he overall has been with some fairly big clubs in their own rights. Roma, Fenerbache and Sevilla are all either great or above average teams in their leagues and fairly consistently performing over the years but it just didnt go right with the teams he played at before joining milan and in the end im sure he will think back more than fondly on his time with us. He had some bad season but so did his teams and to my knowledge there was also a lot of coach changes which changed his positions within those clubs. In the end i could also see both fenerbaches fans and the club to have an interest in bringing him back as i know a lot of them stilkl loves him there.

        I think they complimented eachother fantastically, ibra more aggressive and simon more cool headed which this is a pretty good example on 😀


        i think so

        Well it might be the right thing to do but i think kjær has currently 7-10 years of international captaincy but dont hold me up on those exact numbers but that is fairly difficult to find a player like that for peanuts. If we both want to add a big name cb signing and keep gabbia and promote simic then im not 100% sure unless we skip other cbs out.

        He hadnt won anything before joining us so not really but i have nevertheless always thought he has been a great cb.

        1. Thanks for that and love the YouTube clip!

          It really shows that’s hard to judge a player based on their past. Once a player finds the right conditions they can excel. And boy did he excel!

          1. No problem yeah in hindsight its a pretty funny one, kjær trying to protect his coach or who that fella is and ibra absolutely fuming and it could easily have escalated.

            It does and absolutely.

        1. Yeah because I remember being underwhelmed by his signing (admittedly that is my default position!) but then being so pleasantly surprised when I was proven wrong!

        1. I assume you’ll agree these aren’t the clubs we are aiming to catch up with.

          That’s the thing, our signings should be focused on the clubs above us not below.

        2. Compared to milan no but sevilla and fenerbache are fairly big clubs in their countries and in some european competions. Roma is fairly consistently competing in serie a so also not really a small club even though they havent won many scudettos but i get you but compared to milan there isnt really many big clubs around then.

  2. I don’t see why he couldn’t take up a defensive coaching position at Milan. Or something similar. Invaluable resource given his experience.

  3. Not gonna lie, part of me wanted him to retire in our jersey. But it’s true that given how much he is removed from his best years, the idea of him playing for us for another season seems unlikely.
    He should play, even at least subbed in, during the Salernitana game. He deserves an ovation for his last game.

      1. And that will probably show next season. Who’s there to lead us? Florenzi. That’s about it. No MM16, no Kjaer, No Giroud. Who knows, maybe no Calabria either. And don’t say we have Leao because if he “infects” the team with his working-ethics… Oh boy, let’s not go there.

        1. This is actually a big problem.
          This season alone, it was clear that losing Maldini (the man, not the director), Zlatan and perhaps Tonali did influence the team mentality. In 2021/22, there are games which were ugly and where we managed to squeeze a win thanks to their mentality and leadership.
          Theo is too immature at times, Calabria (unless he steps up) and Florenzi are not enough. So does that mean we should look for a senior type of player who won a lot who will influence the team ? Does the moneyball algorithm takes that into account ? And also a leader type of coach.

          1. All teams without any strong, experienced leaders is doomed to fail. That’s like the starting point for creating a winning team. Even the moneyball algorithm should know that.

          2. That’s why I think we need a Kjaer/Ibra type player in DM who will take hold of the team.

            I’d focus on a 30-something established winner over a 20-something with potential.

  4. If only Kjaer didn’t get that ACL, i bet he still can play for another season or two.

    But man, Milan lost another leader in the locker room + field. Maldini gone, Giroud gone, Kjaer gone, Pioli will be gone, and more like Mike, Bennacer, and Theo will leave too…sigh.

  5. Nice article. I think Kjaer was the biggest revelation. I’d never heard of him but immediately you could see the leadership and his reading of the game. He turned us around as much as Ibra, and done it with dedication and humility.

    1. A perfect teamplayer and a superb leader. Every team needs those guys. And who could forget the UCL matches last season where he made Kane & Osimhen look like little girls when he pocketed them?

  6. Farewell King Kajaer! A viking warrior indeed. He was truly the backbone of our defense in Pioli’s early days. Never really came back from that horrible injury unfortunately.

  7. A very good player indeed, also a natural-born leader. And above all a great man, a veritable hero. as that harrowing episode with Erikssen on the danish national side shown to the world. He’ll certainly be missed, and I agree with all of you who think that we should sign at least one experienced player with proven leadership capabilities on this next transfer window. Well, I hope that one day he can return to Milan as a coach or director, he’s really someone that I admire.

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