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'Schmeichel did overhead kicks and took free kicks like Ronaldo!' - Ex-coach lauds Premier League-winning goalkeeper

11:00 AM GMT+4 20/04/2020
Kasper Schmeichel Leicester City
The Leicester star is better with his feet than many think and loved playing outfield in training, his former coach tells Goal

Kasper Schmeichel's former goalkeeping coach, Kevin Hitchcock, says the Leicester City star is underrated, with the Dane possessing the ability to strike a ball as cleanly as Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Premier League title winner is flying high in the table again in 2019-20, with his Foxes side seemingly set to qualify for the Champions League again through a third-place finish after enjoying an impressive season under Brendan Rodgers.

Hitchcock now works at MLS outfit New England Revolution, but he was Mark Hughes' goalkeeping coach at Manchester City in 2008. Schmeichel was part of the first-team fold at the Etihad Stadium at that time, but found himself competing with long-term England No.1 goalkeeper Joe Hart and Ireland legend Shay Given.

The former Chelsea goalkeeper-turned-coach recalls watching Schmeichel's rise to become one of the best in the league.

"I saw Kasper and Joe when they were up and coming," Hitchcock told Goal. "I knew they would be at the top of the tree at some stage in their career. Mark brought Shay Given in at Manchester City but they were one and two.

"Joe then went to Birmingham. Kasper wanted to play. He is one of the goalkeepers who just loves football and he could do amazing things on the training pitch. He would do overhead kicks like Ronaldo and took free kicks like Ronaldo.

"He was incredible and a fantastic goalkeeper. His work ethic on the training ground was second to none. He is a leader like his dad. He learned a lot off his dad. He has just shown everybody what he is.

"Everyone says his dad did this, his dad did that. But he has proven he is an outstanding goalkeeper on the world stage. I'm really proud to say that I've worked with him and he is a really good lad."

Hitchcock's connection with Hughes began at the end of both of their careers at Chelsea. However, Hitchcock's first role as a goalkeeping coach was alongside Gianluca Vialli at Watford. He then worked with Hughes at Blackburn Rovers, coaching the legendary United States international Brad Friedel. 

After a spell at City, Hitchcock worked at Fulham, QPR, West Ham and Birmingham before Friedel lured him to the United States to work at the Revolution. In unfortunate circumstances, Friedel lost his job before Hitchcock's visa came through but he has built a strong connection with Bruce Arena, who holds legendary status in the US himself. 

Hitchcock said: "I would say Brad Friedel is one of the best goalkeepers that the Premier League has ever seen. That’s not just because I worked with him. I came here to work with Brad. It took a long time to get my visa sorted out. 

"By the time I got my visa ready and to come over on the flight, Brad had lost the job and it was all up in the air when I came over. Bruce came in a few days after I started. Then my first game was against Chelsea, who I played with for 10 years. That's crazy!

"Gianfranco Zola was Maurizio Sarri's assistant and he is one of my best friends. Me and Bruce work well together and I really enjoy it. People ask me what he is like. He is the Sir Alex Ferguson of America. He is the main man.

"We had a little bit of a slow start before the coronavirus outbreak. We lost the first game when we shouldn't have lost. We only drew the second game when we should have won. We can have a good go this year. I think we're going to be really good. 

"We have Carles Gil who is one of the best players I have ever seen on the ball. He is as small as Zola and won’t score the goals he did, but he creates so many chances. We are lucky to have him with us. 

"I can’t rate this guy high enough and he has been brilliant for us. In my opinion, he is the best player in the league. I think once the season does get started, we will hit the ground running. I see nothing but success for us, that’s how confident I am."