World Cup scouting: Simon Kjær (Denmark)

Few players at next summer’s World Cup will be watched with quite the same intensity as Denmark’s 20-year-old defender Simon Kjær. The blond centre-back has been on the radar of Europe’s top sides for over two years and seems destined for a move to one of the continent’s heavyweights before 2010 is out.

Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea and Manchester United have all been linked with Kjær in recent weeks, with United reportedly lining him up as a like-for-like replacement for Nemanja Vidić, while the player himself has revealed that his heart has always belonged to Liverpool.

“It is true that my family and I support Liverpool, but the transfer market has nothing to do with it,” he was quoted as saying in The Sun.

Kjær began his career with Danish first division side FC Midtjylland, reportedly attracting attention from Real Madrid in August 2007 before agreeing to join Palermo for €4 million in February 2008. He made his debut as a half-time substitute against Fiorentina in October last year but by the end of the season he had established himself in the starting XI and was rewarded with his first call-up to the national side for the friendly against Greece in February.

Kjær went on to play in four of five Denmark’s final World Cup qualifiers, keeping Zlatan Ibrahimović at bay in the 1-0 victory over Sweden in October that booked their place in the finals, while he has started 14 of Palermo’s 15 games to date in Serie A this season. A strong, athletic centre-back with an excellent feel for the game, he also poses a threat from set pieces and scored the winning goal in Palermo’s 2-1 victory over Cagliari last Sunday.

For Denmark, Kjær lines up alongside Liverpool’s cultured left-footer Daniel Agger, who Kjær describes as his “idol”. The pair form a classic partnership at the heart of the defence, with Kjær’s physical attributes complementing Agger’s ball-playing qualities. Denmark scored fewer goals (16) during World Cup qualifying than any other team from the European zone that successfully qualified, but only the Netherlands – who played in a five-team group – let in fewer goals than the five conceded by the Danes.

“The World Cup will be an incredible experience for me, but I don’t think it will serve as a shop window,” Kjær said this week. “I am concentrated on Palermo, even after the World Cup. Will another season at Palermo be good for me? I cannot think about what will happen in six months, I have to think day by day.”

Kjær might not want to look too far ahead, but the great and good of European football are already competing to secure his future.

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