Martin Laursen is revered among Aston Villa fans for his performances in claret and blue.
The Dane found a home at Villa Park from 2004-09, becoming captain and leading the club with great distinction.
In the latest instalment of a new series, 'Every Picture Tells A Story', our former defender talks us through his favourite photos from his career…
My debut for Denmark was a dream come true. It’s the proudest moment I’ve ever had - since I was five years old, I always dreamed about playing for my country so that was definitely a big moment for me.
The Italian Job…
It was a strange situation for me when I signed for AC Milan because I started the season with Parma and three weeks after I signed, they told me they couldn’t use me.
I was very unhappy and told my agent - after one week I signed for AC Milan, one of the biggest clubs in the world at the time. It was something that I couldn’t actually believe.
If I ever had an idol as a kid, it was Paolo Maldini and to play alongside him was unreal. Sometimes during my three years there it was also a bit of a problem playing alongside him because it wasn’t easy telling him what to do! Sometimes, you need to do that as a centre-half but it was an honour and a proud moment, of course.
Not as proud as playing for Denmark but after three years in Italy it was something that I had worked for. I worked to be in a better place and AC Milan was a big step for me.
Claret and Blue calling…
I didn’t play much in my last season at Milan and I wanted to go. I knew that the way I played (everyone had always told me this and they were right) was best suited for England.
I was always sure that I wanted to come to England and I had the chance to go to Charlton or Villa. I had meetings with both and chose Villa.
My first impressions of Villa Park were very good. It looked like the Parken Stadion in Denmark where the national team plays and I could imagine myself playing there.
We had an unbelievable team at Euro 2004 and I honestly thought we would go all the way. We had a very good team and my thoughts were already on how to bring my family to Portugal for the final!
We played a good first half against in the quarter-final against the Czech Republic then I made one of my few mistakes in the Euros: I lost a header to Jan Koller and he scored the first goal.
Then Milan Baros scored the next two – you can see one of them here - and it was so disappointing. We were all down because we honestly thought we could go all the way. Then again, I don’t think it took so long to get over it because I was looking forward to coming to Villa after some good but hard years in Italy.
"It was over the line"…
I’ve always enjoyed scoring goals. I’ve not scored that many but it’s always a good feeling as a defender – almost unreal sometimes that you’ve scored.
This was my first Villa goal against Middlesbrough and it was a strange goal. I didn’t make that good a contact with the ball but it was a goal – it was over the line! I didn’t know what to do afterwards.
I think we won 2-0 so a good feeling.
I had a special relationship with the young boy I’m holding here.
As captain, I was at Acorns a few times and I got to know him and his story. His mother, too. This picture is special because we were like models presenting the new shirts and it was nice to do. But I remember I had some great pictures with him particularly at Christmas.
I didn’t have any kids at that time but it made you realise how much you should appreciate your health. His mother had a difficult life and his problems affected her life so it makes you realise that you should be happy if you are healthy.
Scoring v Ajax...
This was a good night. It was something like ten years since Villa had played European football at Villa Park, it was against Ajax and Marco Van Basten was manager.
They are a big club, Ajax and for them to come to Villa Park was a big thing for me, for the team and for everyone. It was an incredible feeling to score and it turned out to be an incredible night. I scored in the first half then Gareth Barry scored.
It was a great win and I enjoyed my goal at the Holte End.
I remember I had a lot of pain in my knee. I played the whole game but I considered many times saying to Martin O’Neill that I had pain and I wanted to come off. But I finished the match and I went straight to the medical staff after the game and said it was not good.
I could feel that it was bad. I remember I took a plane straight back to Denmark and they gave me the Player of the Year award that evening.
It turns out that I never played again and it’s something that is strange to think about: on the same day, I played against West Brom, I picked up the award and then never played again.
I was very proud at this moment when I came onto the pitch. I saw everyone had Danish flags and I could feel I was very appreciated by the supporters.
Up to that game I was obviously very sad there were times where I had to consider what to do. I had talks with Martin and we cried together. When I came out at Villa Park that day, I was not sad anymore because I accepted the situation. I tried to think that it was good to finish at the top and I tried to be positive even though I had to stop my career.
I was only proud and happy. My mum and dad and brother and sister were there so it was a proud moment for them too.
In the years after that, I did my A and B coaching badges. I was a Premier League pundit for Danish television but they changed their set up so I don’t work there anymore.
I have three kids now so I’m taking care of them and enjoying my time with them. I enjoy being at home and I’m happy with that but I hope to start coaching in the years to come.
That’s what I enjoy the most: I like to talk about football but I like coaching more so I would like to do that in the future.