Will Christian Eriksen play again? Why Inter Milan terminated his contract and where he might go

If Danish international Christian Eriksen decides to play again after surviving cardiac arrest six months ago at Euro 2021, it will not be in Italy.

Eriksen’s Italian team, Inter Milan, terminated the 29-year-old’s contract by mutual consent on December 17, formalizing an exit that has been expected for some time. The Dane is now a free agent and can join any club that wants to sign him.

“The Club and the entire Nerazzurri family embrace the player and wish him the best for his future.” Inter’s statement read. “Although Inter and Christian are now parting ways, the bond will never be broken. The good times, the goals, the victories, those Scudetto celebrations with fans outside of San Siro, all of this will remain forever in Nerazzurri history.”

Why did Inter terminate Eriksen’s contract?

Eriksen collapsed on the field during Euro 2020 at Copenhagen’s Parken stadium and received life-saving treatment, with medical personnel at the scene restarting his heartbeat. After initially recovering in the hospital, Eriksen was placed on an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) that can return his heart to a regular rhythm if a problem arises in the future.

According to the rules established by the National Olympic Committee of Italy (CONI), Eriksen cannot play in Italy while equipped with such a device. Therefore, he cannot play for Inter, or for any other Italian team, as long as the device is surgically implanted.

Eriksen had a $ 11 million a year contract with Inter that ran through the summer of 2024, but the terms of the contract termination have not been disclosed. In addition to his salary, the Italian team paid more than $ 22 million in a transfer fee to Tottenham Hotspur to acquire him in January 2020.

Reports in Italy indicate that the FIFA Club Protection Program will compensate Inter Milan with $ 8.5 million for a maximum period of 365 days since the episode occurred while he was in service with the national team. The club also reportedly has a private insurance policy that covers Nerazzurri for the balance of salary and outstanding transfer costs.

Eriksen’s time at Inter was short but memorable since arriving from Tottenham in January 2020. It took him some time to settle in, but Eriksen leaves Italy as a Scudetto winner and owner of a number of great moments, including the key to a late free kick. winner in the Milan derby.

Why Eriksen can’t play in Italy

The device Eriksen has been equipped with is known as an ICD or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. This device is implanted under the skin near the clavicle and is connected to the heart through small wires.

In patients with known heart problems, the device can recognize an irregular or stopped heartbeat and can deliver an electric shock to restart the heart, just as an external defibrillator would. Some newer versions of the device also have the ability to function as a pacemaker, allowing it to not only deliver a shock to a stopped heart, but also allow it to deliver more restricted electrical currents to regulate a slow or irregular heartbeat.

Other professional footballers have received this device in the past. Fabrice Muamba, whose heart stopped for 78 minutes while playing at Bolton, was fitted with this device after a miraculous recovery, although he never played professionally again.

Former Manchester United defender and current Ajax captain Daley Blind also received an ICD after an episode experienced in a 2019 Champions League match. He has returned to high-level play since the incident and this season, Blind has played in all Ajax matches in the Eredivisie and the Champions League, registering almost 1,700 minutes.

There are different opinions in Europe and the world about the dangers of continuing athletic activity while wearing an ICD.

Dr. Jason Bradley, a non-invasive cardiologist with a specialization in sports cardiology at Lankenau Medical Center in Pennsylvania, says acceptance of the device is growing but still sporadic in the athletic community.

“It used to be that cardiologists told people ‘no’ [to athletic activity] to get everyone off the hook [for liabilty reasons]”Dr. Bradley told Sporting News.” Now, we are reconsidering that. But there is still a balancing act between the realistic possibilities of an event and the responsibility that doctors and medical professionals are willing to accept. “

Italy is recognized as a leader in sports cardiology, according to Dr. Bradley, and Inter Milan quoted the Italian medical community in a statement in August addressing Eriksen’s future with the club and pointing to a likely move abroad.

“The player has been temporarily inhibited by the Italian medical authority from sports activity in the current season,” the statement read. “Although the current conditions of the player do not meet the requirements to achieve sporting fitness in Italy, the same could be achieved in other countries where the player could resume competitive activity.”

Is Eriksen safe to play again?

The midfielder has not yet officially confirmed his desire and intention to return to professional football, but everything indicates that he is leaning in that direction. He is currently training at the premises of the Danish Super League club Odense BK, the childhood club where Eriksen began his youth career before moving to the Ajax youth team in 2009.

A detailed diagnosis of the cause of Eriksen’s cardiac event during Euro 2020 has not been published, and reports since then have even suggested that it is still unclear what caused the cardiac arrest. Originally, Dr. Bradley said, experts would advise athletes with ICD not to return to any sporting activity more intense than playing golf. Now some are starting to trust devices more, but the risk still remains.

“Before about 2012 to 2015, [experts said] ‘No way, you get an ICD, you are not playing games.’ Now, there are many studies that show that it is not really as dangerous to return to activity as we originally thought. “Still, says Dr. Bradley, new research has suggested that one in 10 people who have had an ICD placed due to a significant cardiac event and who are involved in athletics will have another event, and the question then turns to device reliability and residual liability for a failure.

In the United States, there are no general restrictions or requirements for cardiac screening, but most sports institutions still do theirs. Dr. Bradley pointed to a notable domestic incident that occurred in 1996, when the school’s medical professionals deemed Northwestern basketball player Nicholas Knapp ineligible after he had an ICD placed. Knapp sued the school and, although he initially won the court case, it was overturned on appeal, establishing the right to find a player ineligible for heart problems.

Often the concern in contact sports is damage to the ICD through incidental impacts that occur during the normal course of participation in the sport. These can damage the ICD without the knowledge of the patient, which can cause it to fail if it is later triggered by a cardiac event.

Where will Eriksen play?

It’s unclear not only if Eriksen wants to play again, but where he could play if he does. While it is generally accepted that Italy has one of the strictest regulations regarding athletics and ICDs, any club wishing to sign Eriksen is sure to do its own cardiac exam, and what results from that remains to be seen.

Eriksen, now a free agent, could also choose the path of Sergio Aguero, who announced his retirement due to a cardiac arrhythmia. Aguero assured fans on several occasions during his press conference that he explored “everything possible to have any hope of continuing to play” but ultimately received enough medical advice to end his career. It is unclear if a DAI would have been an option for Agüero.

For Eriksen, if you want to keep playing, you could explore clubs that you already have a relationship with. Eriksen spent three excellent seasons at Ajax, where the aforementioned Blind already plays with an ICD. The more modest BK Odense in Denmark has also expressed interest if the opportunity arises, although the club’s financial realities could make that unlikely.

His former club Tottenham and London-based West Ham have also been raised in speculation. English clubs have strict selection procedures it would have to happen, but there are no general rules preventing his return to the Premier League.

“In Italy, there is a long-standing national cardiac screening policy that covers all sports participation and does not allow participation in a case of increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest during exercise,” an FA spokesman said in late October. . “This has not been so.” adopted in other countries, including the UK. “