B.and John Percy
It is almost 11 years since Kasper Schmeichel first arrived at Leicester City and the memories of this glorious decade are firmly imprinted in his mind.
After helping lead Leicester from the remote outposts of League One to a Premier League title, an FA Cup final triumph and historic European nights, he is an iconic figure in the club’s recent history.
Yet there is a growing sense that Schmeichel’s story could be coming to an end this summer, with talks scheduled over his future.
He will be 36 in November and has just over a year left on his contract, but has already spoken openly about whether it could be time to “try somewhere else”.
This prospect of an emotional farewell has only raised the stakes ahead of Leicester’s Uefa Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg against PSV Eindhoven on Thursday evening.
“I haven’t given it [my future] a moment’s thought yet,” said Schmeichel. “We’ll take that conversation one day when it comes.
“There is slightly too much to think about in terms of the games we have got coming up to start shifting focus right now. The focus is on getting into the semi final.
“If you ask any footballer, at any club, you want to be competing in European football, internationally and at the highest level. These are moments in history we are fighting for every single day to get a chance to compete for.
“We probably aren’t the biggest or flashiest club around but we have consistently been able to mix it with the big boys and we have done a good job of it so far I think.”
Schmeichel remains the standard bearer at Leicester, the ultimate professional who reports for training in the early hours of the morning.
Over the past six years or so, he has established himself as one of the Premier League’s best and most consistent No. 1s, enhancing his reputation even further at last year’s European Championships with Denmark.
That experience was also a testing one, with Schmeichel earning widespread recognition after Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch during the group game against Finland, helping to form a human shield around the stricken midfielder and consoling Eriksen’s wife Sabrina Kvist.
It is these leadership qualities which Leicester, and manager Brendan Rodgers, will sorely miss if he departs, though, admittedly, his performances earlier this season were below par.
“He’s been a brilliant servant here and you can see now that he’s currently playing at a really high level,” said Rodgers.
“He’s a great influence for the team and is playing with a really good calmness. He’s been invaluable for this club over many years.
“I think it’s [his future] something that we’re relaxed on, we’ll have a good chat and I’ll have a wee idea of what he’s thinking.”
Schmeichel produced another clean sheet in the first leg against PSV last week, with the tie finely poised ahead of Thursday’s rematch.
A semi-final tie against either Jose Mourinho’s Roma or Bodo Glimt lies in wait for the winners, but Thursday’s second leg at the Philips Stadion will be a huge challenge.
PSV are fighting it out with Ajax for the Eredivisie league title and also face them in the Dutch Cup Final this weekend.
Schmeichel said: “These are the types of games you want to play in, everything is on the line and you can end up with big prizes, it’s a massive occasion for us.
“They are a proven good team, it’s going to be an amazing atmosphere and we’ve been in tough situations before. In the last round [against Rennes] we came into a cauldron which was fantastic and we rose to the occasion.”