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Focus On: Michael Laudrup

 Posted by on January 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm  Swansea City, The Ball is Flat
Jan 262013


You can´t define a person in a few paragraphs, especially if that person is a world-famous football player and manager. Michael Laudrup was one of the finest players ever saw play the game. He won league titles in three different countries. He played for Barcelona and Real Madrid and is one of the few whose fans still appreciate the football he played there. When he retired he was considered to be (by his own peers) one of the greatest players ever to play the game. He became a manager almost 13 years ago and for the most part, for most people, Laudrup dropped off the map until taking over from the departing Brendan Rogers as coach of Swansea City.

After taking over from Rogers, he Dane has Swansea City on the brink of a League Cup final and 9th on the table, a point back of Liverpool and three from Arsenal- two places where he has won already and losing only three games all year. As is understandable, especially since with Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rogers´s time there, the club have become a training ground for young coaches. Bigger clubs like Chelsea FC have come sniffing around for Laudrup´s services.

While his name may be de rigueur, top of the list on some Sporting Director´s address book, you can´t look at Laudrup´s time as a manager without being sceptical at a move to a big club. He started his managerial career at home-town Brondby FC where his father played and coached and where he did as well. After winning the Danish title in his first year, he couldn´t come to a contractural agreement after finishing second the following year. He took over for a departing Bernd Schuster at Getafe. His one year in t he Madrid suburb was superb. He finished second to Valencia in the Copa del Rey and went deep into the Uefa Cup before being bumped by Bayern Munich in quarters. President Angel Torres said at the time that Getafe, ¨was too small a fit for Laudrup¨, so he accepted his resignation despite having another year on his contract. The coach himself added that his ¨cycle at Getafe had ended.¨

He negotiated with many big clubs in Spain, but many more balked at the price-tag that Laudrup and his rather large support staff were asking for. He went deep into negotiations with Greek club Panathinaikos but couldn´t settle on an escape clause in case a Spanish job opened up. Instead he signed for Spartak Moscow where he lasted only four matches in charge winning only one and being eliminated 3-0 by rivals Dinamo Moscow in the Russian Cup. That his next step was a failed bid to become Atletico Madrid coach, negotiations that were never consummated, was understandable. Their organizational structure was chaotic, and Laudrup didn´t relish the challenge. Sporting Director Jesus Garcia Pitarch said of his meeting with the Dane, “He says he has doubts and that afternoon he called me to tell me his decision. I told him if he is in doubt he cannot be coach of Atletico Madrid. To be Atletico coach you have a twinkle in the eyes. Michael is phenomenal but cannot come because he has no desire to.¨

Instead he accepted the offer from Real Mallorca in 2010. It started off well, but he soon clashed with President Llorenc Serra-Ferrer. They didn´t agree on the signing of Argentine forward Cavenaghi, who was then sold to Bordeaux for an undisclosed fee and the deal for his possible replacement Anthony Ujah fell through on the final day of the transfer window. Their relationship splintered, players were marginalized and the Mallorcan press turned on Laudrup as the club began a terminal free-fall down the table. They were saved from relegation on the last day through no act of their own and the die was cast. The club couldn´t afford to fire him and Laudrup insisted on returning the following season to see out his contract, but when his much-valued assistant Erik Larsen himself was fired for calling out Serra-Ferrer in the media, ¨a very bad man¨ as he put it for reneging on a bonus that was due him Laudrup had no choice and resigned. ¨What we need is calm and I can´t go home every night angry and disappointed. I have a family.¨

This is no knock on the guy. Laudrup is supremely talented and, unlike many great players, he is astute enough to be able to confer his ideas on others, but his success at Swansea is due in no small part to the work of others who came before him, granted the astute buys like Michu that he and his team authorized but also those he inherited, and most importantly the relationship that he and his board have. Who is to say if he leaves Swansea that he will continue on, building on this success if he trades the peacefulness of Swansea for the chaos at Stamford Bridge. That is a question, considering his past clubs, that is murky at best to answer.


The Ball is Flat

The Ball is Flat is a website and podcast devoted to the Beautiful Game. Football, Futbol, Fusball or whatever you call it, it is the game that divides and unites us. The Ball is Flat's mission is to cover European football with an eye open, the heart in motion, and the brain colored with the right amount of cheerful cynicism. Read more:

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