Wednesday 17 January 2018

James Lawton: Big fish circling for great Dane

Michael Laudrup’s success has caught the attentions of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City
Michael Laudrup’s success has caught the attentions of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City

Who knows, it might just be that Michael Laudrup is not without the odd irritating habit. Maybe he is a little grumpy over breakfast, even snaffling the last piece of toast in the rack. Perhaps he doesn't always screw down the top of the sauce bottle.

In the meantime, however, it is extremely hard to dispute the fast-growing contention that on top of his historic League Cup he deserves some other kind of trophy for blowing so much fresh air into some of the more fetid corners of English football.

Laudrup, it has become increasingly clear, not only knows about football but also life.

At 48, he has experienced some of the best of his business. As a player, he was feted in such places as the Nou Camp and the Bernabeu. Back home in Denmark, he has long been a native son with a huge approval rating. As a manager in Spain, Russia and now Wales, he has shown the grace of a man who understands that not every player has the innate ability to make the game look as easy as he did so routinely.

The triumph of his Swansea over Bradford City on Sunday brought another deluge of positive exposure – and another perfect opportunity to grandstand amid the widespread belief that he has drawn the keen attention of no less than Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea. Typically, Laudrup chose instead to speculate warmly on the prospects of competing in the Europa League next season.

He seems to see it as much as an adventure and learning curve for his players as another leg up the pole of personal ambition, and as he suggested as much, you didn't have to live in a Welsh valley to hope that for at least a year or two it might just prove true.

This is not to question the decision of Laudrup's predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, to accept the challenge of Liverpool when his mission in Swansea was still at a pivotal stage.

Rodgers, after all, didn't jump at the Anfield invitation. He stated his own terms and his own values in the matter of the proper running of a major football club. We do not yet know how Laudrup might handle a formal invitation to take over one of the great clubs but we can be pretty sure he would be no less demanding than Rodgers. No doubt he would also insist on his own authority in the important matter of signing players and a certain style of play.

However, there is reason to believe that Laudrup might just linger a little longer at Swansea.


His players plainly adore him, tossing him into the air at Wembley as the Spaniards did Luis Aragones when he led them to the European Championship in 2008 and the Barca players Pep Guardiola at regular intervals.

Swansea have become paragons of well-ordered football management, enlightened both financially and in the priority they have placed on signing managers of impressive pedigree.

In all these circumstances, and especially when they are set against the agonies currently confronting the affairs of Chelsea and Arsenal and Manchester City, it certainly does not seem so fanciful to believe Laudrup is operating in a near-perfect scenario. Maybe it doesn't enable him to buy a title but nor does it oblige him to live under the £50m shadow of a Fernando Torres.

Laudrup has not been restricted in his pursuit of talent, as we were reminded when Michu's 19th goal advanced his case as the signing of the year.

Perhaps the most engaging example of Laudrup's style came in his effortless defusing of the disagreement between Nathan Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman.

When Dyer pursued his complaint that he should have been given the chance to complete the first League Cup final hat-trick from the penalty spot, Laudrup wrapped him in his arms, then volleyed him away as though he was a disruptive schoolboy. But he did it with affection and later blamed himself for not nominating a penalty taker.

More than anything, Laudrup seemed to be reminding Dyer that he was part of a team, valued of course for excellent performance, but just one contributor.

It is the rarest of gifts in the football of today. No wonder they want to keep Michael Laudrup in the valleys for just a little longer. Winning a trophy was one admirable achievement but making a whole nation feel good about the purpose of football was quite another. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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