Ask the majority of football fans to think of Denmark's greatest ever player, and their response will invariably be Michael Laudrup.
So it makes it all the more flattering for Christian Eriksen, Denmark's latest prodigy, to be touted as Laudrup's successor in the national team. "It's crazy to be compared with Michael Laudrup," said the attacking midfielder in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. "After all, he was a very special player and I still have a long way to go. I'm just trying to be myself and we'll have to wait and see if I can be as good as Michael. It's certainly not going to be easy."
Needless to say, Eriksen will hope to be among the contenders for the Hyundai Best Young Player award at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. At just 18 years and four months, Eriksen is by far the youngest player at the tournament. "It's quite something, but at the end of the day I'm just one of 23 players in the squad."
The young Dane has already been given up the nickname 'Little Brother' by his team-mates. Indeed, the difference in age between Eriksen and the oldest player in the squad, Martin Jorgensen, is 17 years. "Sometimes they make jokes about it because some of them are old enough to be my father."
Still, on the pitch Eriksen is more than capable of holding his own with the big boys. Former Denmark international Stig Tofting remembers when the young talent first broke through. "Most people didn't know about him in Denmark, but then suddenly he was in the Ajax first team and he convinced everyone straight away. His performances in the Europa League and in the Dutch league were very impressive. He's good on the ball, always available for a pass and extremely mature for his age. If you're looking for a definition of the word 'super talent', he's your man. He's very similar to Michael Laudrup, so the comparisons are justified. He has the same moves, technique and style."
Ajax coach Martin Jol was similarly fulsome in his praise: "He's a talent. He has no fears and he's a positive guy. How good can he be? Certainly as good as other players who left here for large sums of money like Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder."
Eriksen was just 16 when he made the jump from homeland side Odense to renowned talent-spotters Ajax, a club which has produced a string of world stars in years gone by, including Edwin van der Sar, Marco van Basten and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Interestingly, the Dutch giants also launched the careers of a number of Danish internationals, including Brian and Michael Laudrup, Jesper Olsen and Soren Lerby to name but a few. Eriksen made his international debut on 3 March 2010 against Austria, making him the third-youngest player to appear for the Danes after Harald Nielsen and Michael Laudrup.
Although a number of top European clubs have expressed an interest in signing the skilful playmaker, Eriksen recently extended his contract in Amsterdam for another four years. "Now I have plenty of time to prove to myself and others that one day I can play for one of the best teams in Europe."
"He's undoubtedly the biggest talent I've ever played with," national team colleague Lars Jacobsen told FIFA.com following the Danes' first training session in South Africa. "His quality and maturity are very impressive."
Fortunately, Eriksen is well equipped to deal with all the hype surrounding him at the moment. "It's always nice to be complimented. It gives me confidence." At South Africa 2010, the midfielder is hoping for as much playing time as possible. "I know that it's going to be tough but I need to show why I'm here every day."
Shortly before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Eriksen fulfilled another dream harboured by millions of teenagers around the world by passing his driving test. "It was just before the World Cup squad was announced," he laughed. If the likeable Dane can prove as calm and collected on the pitch as is with his parallel parking, he could well be in line to become the winner of the Hyundai Best Young Player award at South Africa 2010.
Though Eriksen is the youngest player at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Norman Whiteside of Northern Ireland holds the all-time record after appearing at Spain 1982 aged just 17 years and 41 days.
This Danish prodigy's full name is Christian Dannemann Eriksen.
Eriksen had trials with Barcelona and Chelsea before signing for Ajax.
Though Eriksen only has two caps for the senior national team, he has played for his country a total of 38 times. The gifted 18-year-old made the rest of his appearances for Denmark's national youth teams.