Atalanta, Liverpool and Ajax approach for FC Midtjylland - yet Rasmus Nicolaisen finds himself in familiar place at Portsmouth
Rasmus Nicolaisen was well aware of what he could miss out on when he decided to swap FC Midtjylland for Pompey.
When the defender completed his move to Fratton Park on a season-long loan, he knew the Danish Superliga champions were on the cusp of creating history.
Indeed, the Jutland-based outfit achieved exactly that, beating Slavia Prague over two legs to qualify for the Champions League group stages for the first time.
But even after Midtjylland were drawn alongside Nicolaisen's boyhood-club and Premier League holders Liverpool, four-time winners Ajax and Serie A outfit Atalanta – who they play tonight – he still didn’t regret or lament his decision.
‘There are some big games (for Midtjylland in this season’s Champions League), but I'm not thinking about it this year,’ he told The News last month.
‘I'm just happy to be here, aiming to get a lot of games. That's what's most important for me.’
The long-term goal for Nicolaisen is to be a key player at the Jutland-based side when nights in Europe's elite club competition come around again.
Having grown tired of being a bit-part player at Midtjylland, he moved to Pompey for regular minutes
But he’d highly likely rather be sitting on the bench at Anfield and Ajax than he would at Priestfield and the Pirelli as things stand.
Nicolaisen was once again an unused substitute in the Blues’ 2-0 victory at Gillingham on Tuesday night.
Since the ex-Denmark youth international arrived, Kenny Jackett’s side have played six games – and he's featured in just two of them.
The first was a comfortable 3-0 win over Southend in the EFL Trophy. Nicolaisen scarcely put a foot wrong, although the calibre of opposition in a Shrimpers second team wasn't exactly much.
Then there was a maiden league outing against MK Dons four days later. Nicolaisen came on at half-time for Ronan Curtis as Jackett reverted to a three-man defence. He won several towering headers as Pompey clung on for a 2-1 win.
However, that cameo was still not enough to win a first league start. And, as things stand, the defensive situation is unlikely to change following the triumph over the Gills.
On the whole, Jack Whatmough has been Pompey's best performer in the early stages of the campaign. Having come back superbly from a third serious knee injury, he's one of the first players on the team sheet.
His centre-back partner has been Sean Raggett, who Nicolaisen's hoping to dislodge.
The former Norwich defender continues to split opinions of supporters, as he has for most of his Pompey career.
But his display against a robust Gillingham attack was a fine one, with even those who have clamoured for Nicolaisen to be given a chance issuing Raggett praise.
He might not be as cultured on the ball as some but is a no-nonsense defender whose aerial presence is up there with the best in League One.
Jackett's mantra remains that his side should target zeroes and ones when it comes to their defensive record each game. As things stand, the Blues have shipped six goals in seven matches, with Raggett playing in each of those.
When the Blues travel to promotion-rivals Sunderland on Saturday, it’s unlikely that Jackett will swap around his back four on the back of a clean sheet.
Nicolaisen’s not the first Pompey loanee to suffer from a lack of minutes. The likes of Andre Green, David Wheeler, Joe Mason and Lloyd Isgrove have endured the same fate, while Cam Pring – on loan from Bristol City – is currently in the same boat.
After his Southend outing, it was clear Nicolaisen was growing frustrated and impatient. There will have been knocks on Jackett's door to see how he can force his way into the starting XI.
But other than an injury to Raggett, a drastic jettison in defensive performances of a shift to a 3-4-3 system more consistently then it’s likely Nicolaisen will have to wait for his opportunity a while longer.
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