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Jesper Olsen (born 20 March 1961 in Faksemarker) is a Danishmarker former football who most notably played for Ajax of the Netherlands and Manchester United of England. Olsen was a regular left winger for the Danish national team, scoring five goals in 43 matches. He represented Denmark at the Euro 1984 and 1986 World Cup tournaments.


He started his senior career for Næstved IF, and made his debut for the Danish national team in a July 1980 friendly match against the Soviet Union. He had a trial with Arsenal FC in 1978-79, scoring a goal in a reserve team game. After a failed attempt by Ajax July 1980 to get Jesper Olsen to Amsterdam, he moved abroad in July 1981 to play professionally for Ajax in the Netherlandsmarker.


While playing for Ajax, Olsen became well known for his part in the infamous "passed penalty" routine he performed with Johan Cruyff. When Cruyff was awarded a penalty kick in a Dutch Eredivisie league match against Helmond Sport on 5 December 1982, with Ajax leading 1-0, Cruyff passed the ball sideways to Olsen, who returned it to Cruyff, with the Dutchman then slotting the ball past the bemused goalkeeper to make the score 2-0. It was allowed by the referee because the penalty is a direct free kick, so it can also be taken indirectly. During his stay with Ajax, Olsen earned the nickname De Vlo (The Flea) due to his posture and his ability to twist, turn and jump to avoid tackles. He was also called "The Untouchable". The Ajax coach in the 1981-82 season, Kurt Linder, regarded him the most surprisingly talented player in the young Ajax squad, both technically and tactically phenomenal.

He won the 1981-82 Eredivisie championship in his first season at the club. The next season, 1982-83, Ajax successfully defended the Eredivisie title, and also won the Dutch Cup to complete The Double. Olsen scored twice in the qualification tournament for Euro 1984, including a last-minute equaliser in the 2-2 draw against England. He was selected to represent Denmark at the finals tournament, and played two games, including Denmark's semi-final against Spain. The game ended a draw, but even though Olsen scored in the penalty shootout, Denmark were eliminated when Preben Elkjær missed his shot.

Manchester United

Olsen moved from Ajax to England in July 1984, joining Manchester United. He helped United win the 1985 FA Cup, and he scored a total of 24 goals in his five-year spell at the club. He was called up to the Danish squad for the 1986 World Cup, and scored two goals in the three preliminary group stage matches, but he will always be remembered for making a grave mistake in the round of 16 match against Spain. He gave Denmark the lead on a penalty kick, but just before half-time he collected a ball from goalkeeper Lars H√łgh. When he tried to return the ball to H√łgh, his pass ended up straight in front of Emilio Butrague√Īo instead. The Spanish striker levelled the game, and eventually went on to score four goals in the game that Denmark lost 1-5. Consequently, the term a rigtig Jesper Olsen (a real Jesper Olsen) entered the Danish lexicon.

Through his later years at Manchester, Olsen had a hard time adapting to the English game, and saw his footballing development stagnate. He was selected for the Denmark team at the Euro 1988, but did not play any games at the tournament. Olsen's Manchester United career ended in the 1988-89 season, and he transferred to Bordeaux of Francemarker, later moving on to play as a wingback for Caen. After suffering a serious injury, he left Caen and retired in 1992, despite being offered the chance to return to English football with Blackburn Roversmarker and Nottingham Forest.


He has maintained a low profile since his retirement as a player, and now lives in Brighton, Victoria, Australia. He was admitted to hospital on 4 May 2006 after suffering a subarachnoid haemorrhage. He had just returned from jogging, when he first felt the effects of the haemorrhage, and said, "It was frightening to feel the loss of control".

After recovering from the haemorrhage, Olsen visited Australia coach Guus Hiddink at the Australian World Cup preparation camp in Melbourne. Olsen was acquainted with Hiddink through his friends S√łren Lerby and Frank Arnesen. "I'm doing well, but it was a quite scary experience", Olsen told the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. The newspaper described Jesper Olsen as looking somewhat fatigued, but otherwise appearing as his usual self.

He is currently one of the Assistant Managers of A-League club, Melbourne Heart.



  2. Kim Simmelsgaard, "Så bli'r Olsen englænder", B.T., 20 October 1991
  3. "Så er det slut med Jesper Olsen", Politiken, 4 July 1992
  4. Olsen suffers brain haemorrhage, BBC Sport, 9 May 2006

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