When Dean Smith was sacked as Aston Villa manager last season, there were no shortage of candidates to replace him and the club may have missed a trick in not appointing Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand.
The 50-year-old manager was one of several names linked with the vacant position in November of last year, with Sky Sports reporter Rob Dorsett confirming live on air that the Danish boss was under consideration.
He said: “The Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand is also on their list. He’s very well known by the sporting director [at Aston Villa], Johan Lange, who himself is Danish. I expect him to be interviewed – but I suspect he’s a bit of an outsider for the role, as I see things at the moment.”
However, the Villans would opt to appoint former Rangers boss Steven Gerrard in a move that has perhaps backfired, as the former Liverpool star continues to struggle despite some star-studded additions.
As it stands, Gerrard has a poorer win rate of 36% than predecessor Smith (40%) and Steve Bruce (45%), which suggests that the appointment has not gone to plan so far.
While recent results against Manchester City and Southampton have eased the pressure on the Villa boss, their start to the season has not been good enough, when you consider that the club will have had European ambitions following the impressive additions of Diego Carlos, Boubacar Kamara and Philippe Coutinho under Gerrard’s tenure.
In Hjulmand, they could have signed a manager who has seriously exceeded expectations with Denmark in recent years.
The former Mainz manager has won 21 out of 31 of his games in charge of Denmark, including in the build-up to the World Cup, which saw the Danes win nine out of ten of their qualifying fixtures, scoring 30 goals and conceding just three.
Hjulmand also memorably led Denmark to the semi-final of Euro 2020, despite the adversity faced by the squad in the opening fixture against Finland when Christian Eriksen collapsed, which emphasises his ability to unite a squad.
Denmark captain Simon Kjaer was full of praise for Hjulmand’s influence during that tournament, saying:
“Kasper has been absolutely fantastic in the way he has handled it all in having full focus on that we should continue to play football but that people were in different places mentally. And at the same time he has had to deal with himself.
“It has been very impressive. He has been a fantastic coach and leader of the team also externally. I can only praise him. I am very grateful to have him as a coach.”
While Gerrard impressed at Rangers domestically, his side always struggled in big games in Europe, with the Scottish side only qualifying for the Champions League following his departure.
His less than impressive spell at Villa thus far suggests that he still might be out of his depth in the Premier League dealing with top-quality players, whereas Hjulmand has already shown an ability to get the best out of top talents with Denmark, so the Villans may well regret not appointing him last year.