Brentford manager Thomas Frank greeted the emotional arrival of countryman Christian Eriksen in January by announcing he could be the club’s “greatest signing ever”.
It was a claim made in the afterglow of the deal that brought the midfielder back into football after he suffered a cardiac arrest playing for Denmark in their opening game of Euro 2020 last June.
Eriksen revealed he felt he was “gone from this world for five minutes”. So it was a joy to simply see this hugely popular 30-year-old fit and healthy again, never mind restarting a playing career many feared was over.
And in the 4-1 thrashing of Chelsea here at Stamford Bridge, as Eriksen pulled the strings and scored his first Brentford goal as the centrepiece of one of the finest results in their history, he delivered substantial evidence to back up Frank’s bold prediction.
Eriksen has already resumed normal service with Denmark, scoring as they lost 4-2 to the Netherlands last weekend then getting on target again in his first game back at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium, when Serbia were beaten 3-0.
The moment Frank had in mind when he signed Eriksen – and there was an element of gamble on both sides of this deal – came in the 54th minute of a remarkable afternoon at Stamford Bridge.
Vitaly Janelt had just hammered home an equaliser for Brentford, moments after Antonio Rudiger had given Chelsea a lead they did not merit given the way the visitors had largely dominated the first 45 minutes.
Were Brentford happy with that? Not a bit. And certainly not Eriksen.
Brentford broke clear, Eriksen matching Bryan Mbeumo’s pace and energy to arrive in the penalty area with perfect timing to receive his pass and lift a finish high over Edouard Mendy at the Shed End.
Eriksen’s face was wreathed in smiles as he raced into the corner to join the ecstatic celebrations of the Brentford fans, who eventually enjoyed the sort of result and performance they could barely have contemplated when they made the seven-and-a-bit mile journey across west London.
It was the first time Brentford had beaten Chelsea since 1939 and they deserved every bit of their elation. The Champions League holders were humiliated by the magnificent Bees.
The statistics are now backing up the impact Frank hoped Eriksen would have.
Brentford looked out of ideas and inspiration when they lost 2-0 at home to Newcastle United on 26 February, leaving them only three points off the bottom three. Eriksen’s return as a substitute, 259 days after his cardiac arrest, sounded the only positive note from a day of real disappointment.
Since then, Brentford have won three league games out of four – all three of which Eriksen has started. He missed the loss at Leicester City, having tested positive for Covid-19.
It would be unfair and an insult to Eriksen’s team-mates to suggest this was some sort of one-man show. Far from it, as every player made their contribution to a stunning result against Chelsea that could have been even more emphatic than the scoreline suggests.
What Eriksen gives Brentford, though, is quality, stature and self-belief.
Brentford’s players look to him for leadership and guidance, to deliver the moments that make a difference. He is their game-changer, the one they know has done it at the very highest level.
They can watch him in action, his comfort and confidence patrolling midfield unconcerned by the elite company, such as N’Golo Kante, he may be up against.
Eriksen is at home there and the old class is increasing all the time, with the goals now coming.
As former England defender Martin Keown told BBC Sport’s Final Score: “The spirit that Brentford are showing is incredible, but to see Christian Eriksen cap it off is quite magnificent.
“He can still play the game of football he loves so much. He is not being denied and we’re not being denied the spectacle that he provides.”
In the wider context, this result and its consequences will provide all the value Frank wanted when he brought Eriksen to Brentford.
The Bees will now surely survive in the Premier League, a superb achievement, and Eriksen will have played his part having revived the momentum they appeared to have lost before his arrival.
They have been able to build on that stock of points from an excellent start to the season and profit from Eriksen’s inspiration.
Eriksen will be grateful for the confidence and belief Frank showed in him – and the player has repaid his manager in kind.
This was a glory day for Brentford and Eriksen – and the day the Bees and their fans can surely start looking forward to a second season in the top flight.