Now in the 13th year of a professional journey that has taken him from modest Danish outfit Holbæk B&I to Italian giants Juventus via sojourns in Germany and Italy, 30-year-old Christian Poulsen has enjoyed an impressive career. FIFA.com brings you a closer look at the versatile Denmark stalwart, capped 71 times by his country, who is determined to drive the Danish Dynamite to success at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Copenhagen the springboard
A tough-tackling defensive midfielder also able to line up in the centre of defence, Poulsen’s first steps on the footballing ladder came at the age of five when he joined his home-town club Asnæs BK. He spent almost all his youth at the lower-league outfit from Zealand, Denmark’s largest island, before making the switch to Holbæk in 1995.
Within two years Poulsen had broken into the first team, gradually making a starting berth his own and subsequently being awarded the captain’s armband. One of the youngest skippers in the club’s history, the midfield man’s dynamic displays brought him to the attention of the Danish Football Association, and he made his international debut for Denmark's U-19 team in 1998.
The combative and committed performer made 82 appearances over a three-year spell at Holbæk, scoring 13 goals along the way, before making the move to capital powerhouses FC Copenhagen. He quickly assumed a leadership role at his new club, whom he helped to victory in the Danish league and Super Cup in 2001, feats which helped earn him his senior international debut under Denmark coach Morten Olsen in November that year.
After helping Copenhagen finish runners-up the following campaign, Poulsen was voted the league’s Young Player of the Year and travelled to the FIFA World Cup in Korea and Japan, where he appeared in all three of the Danes’ group encounters. Such impressive form for club and country earned him a €7 million transfer to German Bundesliga side Schalke, a then record fee for a Danish league player.
It was an investment that yielded great returns for both parties, with the Danish international soon becoming a fixture in the Royal Blues’ midfield and more than holding his own in Germany’s top flight. Also an increasingly important figure for Denmark, by UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal Poulsen was a mainstay of the side that reached the quarter-finals only to go out 3-0 against the Czech Republic.
The 2004/05 campaign was arguably Poulsen’s finest on German soil, with Schalke finishing runners-up in the Bundesliga and winning the League Cup and the player voted Denmark's Footballer of the Year for the first time. Another good season in Gelsenkirchen in 2005/06 helped him defend his Footballer of the Year title, but Denmark’s failure to qualify for Germany 2006 convinced him to seek a new challenge elsewhere.
Thus, a four-year spell at Schalke featuring 111 league appearances and three goals had come to an end, with the imposing midfield man moving on to La Liga outfit Sevilla. There he wasted no time in becoming a linchpin at the Andalusian outfit, helping the club to third place in the Primera Division behind Real Madrid and Barcelona in his first season at the club. What's more, the Dane played a vital role in Sevilla lifting the 2006 UEFA Super Cup and the 2006/07 editions of the UEFA Cup and Spanish Copa del Rey.
However, after the club slipped to a somewhat disappointing fifth spot in 2007/08, Poulsen was on the move once more, this time to the Old Lady of Serie A: Juventus. Signed for €9.75m, the versatile Dane has racked up 48 league appearances to date for Italian football’s most decorated club, helping them to second spot in 2008/09 and seventh in the 2009/10.
Experience the key
The Italian season over, Poulsen is now fully focused on the national team, which is still in the hands of his mentor Olsen. A crucial figure in the Danish Dynamite set-up, he featured in all the Danes’ encounters on the road to South Africa 2010, scoring twice to end the campaign as his country's third-highest goalscorer.
Drawn in a tough-looking Group E alongside the Netherlands, Japan and Cameroon, Danish hopes will rest heavily on the shoulders of experienced members like the Juve midfielder, as coach Olsen recently told FIFA.com. "Our main strength is that every player knows exactly what he has to do. We also have some key players such as Daniel Agger, Christian Poulsen and Daniel Jensen. These are experienced players, which is important, especially for the younger players taking part in their first World Cup."
"Denmark will not be among the favourites but if we have our best players available, which wasn't the case in the qualification phase, we can achieve a lot," concluded Olsen. Clearly one of those top players, and something of a knockout-competition expert during his club career, can Poulsen help dark horses Denmark cause a stir on South African soil?