Christian Eriksen on leaving Tottenham for Inter Milan
Christian Eriksen says he was “the black sheep” at Tottenham for being “very honest” over running his contract down at the club.
Denmark midfielder Eriksen joined Inter Milan for £16.9m last month, ending six and a half years with Spurs.
The 27-year-old’s admission he wanted to leave in the aftermath of the Champions League final defeat by Liverpool led some fans to turn on him.
“I did get the blame for a lot of stuff, for being the bad guy,” he said.
His contract at Spurs had been set to expire this summer.
By the time Inter boss Antonio Conte offered an exit route, Eriksen says he had grown tired of the speculation about his future and weary of the finger-pointing from the stands.
In an exclusive interview with BBC Sport, Eriksen outlined his frustrations. In addition, he explained why he feels the treatment he received came because he wanted to be honest, the excitement he feels at joining Inter and Sunday’s derby with AC Milan at the San Siro.
Is there a sense of relief to get all the talk of your future over and get playing at a club without all the background noise?
Eriksen: “Yes. England, for the last few years, was very hectic. After what I said in the summer, it was just about ‘when is he going to leave?’ Every game it was ‘Is he leaving? Is he not leaving?’ Of course, a lot of people were speaking about it.
“Even the fans you see on the street were like ‘Thank you, goodbye and good luck’. But I was still there. It was a bit weird. In my head and for my body, it is good that I am in a new place and I can start again.”
Can you wind back to the Champions League final? That was obviously a disappointing night. (Mauricio) Pochettino raised doubts about your future. You gave the interview when you said you were thinking about a fresh challenge. The conjecture went on for weeks. Did it play on your mind? Did that bother or affect you?
“I wouldn’t say it affected me. In England, when your contract is shorter, it is like you have to leave now. You are gone. In the end I played about 30 games that were like goodbye games. It was like ‘this might be his last game’, ‘this might be his last game’. It kept rolling.
“In my head I was ready to try something new but felt if nothing came, I was still ready to play for my place. I was not a different player in that sense. But I was in and out of the team. However, even if I had a four-year contract, this season would have been difficult after the Champions League final.”
Eriksen made 305 appearances for Tottenham, scoring 69 times and played in the 2019 Champions League final, which Spurs lost 2-0 to Liverpool
It seemed the problems Tottenham had were pushed back to you and your form…
“But that is the thing. If you have a short contract, you will be the black sheep. Of course, I did the interview. I was very honest. I felt I had to be honest. I didn’t want to hide like a lot of players do. Everyone is different. I was honest. I wanted to say it out loud.
“I did get the blame for a lot of stuff, for being the bad guy. I read I was the bad person in the changing room, that ever since I said I wanted to leave, it was no good me being there. To be honest, over the last few years, if anything came up, any player would think about leaving but I was the guy who said it publicly.”
Jose Mourinho didn’t really settle the situation down. In a very Jose way, he was nice but there was always a ‘but’. Did that affect things at all?
“No. When the window is not open, there can only be talk. There cannot be anything concrete. I think Mourinho did well. He could have said ‘he wants to leave, so he is not going to play any more’. He didn’t do that.
“After I told him where my feelings were and what I would like to do, he told me just to be happy and if I was needed I would play. I was needed in a few games where I did make a difference. It was more as an extra rather than in the starting XI of course.”
When you talk about Tottenham, it does seem to have unravelled very quickly after finishing last season on such a high…
“Yes. It did. The Champions League final was such a special moment. In the history of Tottenham, it was the first time. To be there was so nice and beautiful. But you lose and the next day it is the end of the world. That is how it goes.
“Afterwards it was difficult. People were still sad from the Champions League final when the season started. After you get a few bad results, then you go into a spiral you are not used to and it was difficult to come back up.
“But if you look at the Premier League, there is only one team that is really flying. All the others are trying to find their place, not only Tottenham. Some seasons are like that.
“The history of the last five years is of Tottenham being where they have not been before for a long time. It was not a time to end but, in a way, it just came along which was something we didn’t expect and didn’t want.”
So we get to January. When did you find out, when did you think, you would be leaving?
“Not until it got serious. In the end it comes down to what Tottenham wants to have and what Inter, or any other club, want to pay.
“In the end you are controlled by Tottenham. You are controlled by [chairman Daniel] Levy. He says yes or no. You try to be as professional as you can be and not to force anything through in any way.”
Was it always Inter Milan? There were a few clubs mentioned. Manchester United were routinely mentioned…
“For a few years but it was never really likely. We did speak to them of course and we did hear what was possible and what wasn’t possible. But, in the end, me personally, I wanted a new challenge. To stay in the Premier League would have been an easy solution.
“Of course, staying at Tottenham would also have been a solution but, for me, it just came down to wanting to try a new challenge in a new country. Once Inter came up it really wasn’t a difficult choice.”
It is amazing how many former Premier League players are here…
“Yes. And a bit of the English culture straightaway and a bit of the English language. I am not the only one who can’t understand everything in Italian. It is funny that so many players have come over – and also at the same club.
“That doesn’t happen often. I don’t know if it makes it easier. You can speak with them about where you are going to live, what kind of house you are going to look for, what has happened, what hasn’t happened. You speak more with them and you can speak the language with them.
“But it doesn’t really matter. It depends on the group you come into. So far, it is a very nice group of people and players.”
Eriksen only scored three times for Tottenham this season before he joined Inter Milan
It is an exciting time to join Inter Milan. They are challenging for the title, have got Europe are still in the Coppa Italia…
“Yes. Historically, it is not that easy to come in January. Everyone is at the same fitness level because they have trained together all season. I need to fit in with how they play and learn the different things they do.”
And this weekend, you couldn’t have a much bigger game to play in and any team with Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a bit of star quality about it…
“He brings a name with him of course. And there is (fellow Dane) Simon Kjaer. I have spoken to him, even before, when he was over here and we were speaking to Inter back then.
“He was not that far away at Atalanta. It will be the first time I have played against him so that will be fun. Hopefully we will show where we are in the league.”