Swansea City’s debut season in the English Premier League last year was the making of Brendan Rodgers. Predicted to struggle in the league and be one of three clubs to be relegated, Rodgers inspired his team to an impressive 11th place finish, shocking critics and fans alike. His approach to the game – work as a unit, pass the ball from the back to the front, and attack with pace was hailed as the key reason for their success and ultimately led to Liverpool’s approach for Rodgers when Kenny Dalglish was dismissed. Rodgers leapt at the opportunity to take over at Anfield and left the Swans in the summer of 2012. The search began for his replacement immediately with several names begin thrown into the mix but one name stood out from the rest – European Cup winner and Danish superstar, Micheal Laudrup.
Laudrup, a legend in his native Denmark, had a glittering career that saw him grace the pitches at Brondby, Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Ajax. Voted the Best Foreign Player in Spanish Football for the past 25 years in 1999, Laudrup won a variety of trophies including the La Liga title 4 times in a row and 1992 European Cup with Barcelona. His managerial career has been varied with spells in charge of Spartak Moscow, Getafe, Mallorca and Brondby with a short spell as assistant manager of the Danish National team as well. Managers and players are happy to talk about how good Laudrup was with former Juventus teammate and now UEFA President Michel Platini calling Laudrup ” One of the biggest talents ever”. Pep Guardiola, a colleague at Barcelona talked about their time together recently ” He was the best player in the world, I can’t believe he didn’t win the title as best player”. His former boss, Johan Cruyff ran out of superlatives to describe his talents
“When Michael plays like a dream, a magic illusion, determined to show his new team his extreme abilities, no one in the world comes anywhere near his level.”
Laudrup’s experience, both as a player and as a manager, held him well above all of the other applications that Huw Jenkins, the Swansea Chairman, received. His appointed as head coach came shortly after Rodgers departure and work began on rebuilding the Welsh club who had already started to lose a majority of the stars from the previous season. Laudrup knew that he needed to fill the void left by the departures of midfielder Joe Allen (to Liverpool) and Scott Sinclair (to Man City). He did so by quickly signing Spanish midfielder Michu and Korean star Ki Sung-Yueng who dropped into his new look team with ease, with the former hitting the ground running with a series of goals that helped Swansea to early season points.
But not everything is rosy at the Liberty Ground as recent reports have suggested that some senior players are going behind Laudrup’s back to complain to Huw Jenkins about their new coach. Their grumble is simple – he is not Brendan Rodgers and the tactics/training are different. The players feel that they are not as fit as last year and are forced to do additional training themselves to get into the same condition. Laudrup’s methods are indeed different from that of Rodgers and his approach mirrors his playing philosophy, believing that each player is responsible for their own condition, beyond team training. He is in a collection of foreign coaches who strongly believe that the players should be treated as adults and care about what they eat, how much the rest and how much additional work they want to do on the training pitch or in the gym. This is not to say that Rodgers fathered his players or told them how to do this, but he encouraged it on a regular basis. Laudrup feels this encouragement is not necessary as the players should want to improve themselves especially as the now play in England’s top league.
Jenkins has been quick to come out and publicly back Laudrup and his methods stating:
“As with any change in manager, particularly at a club who have been successful, it will take time to settle down. Everyone has a different approach and this is a normal issue for us after Brendan Rodgers went to Liverpool.
Whilst Laudrup’s training method’s may be different, he is still getting the results needed, leading Swansea to 11th place in the league so far in their second season in the Premiership. The players need to respect that his management style may be different from the last manager. Their focus should be on the pitch, making sure they give 110% for the manager at all times instead of going behind his back like school children to complain to the owner. It’s up to them at the end of the day, they can either work with Laudrup and forget about the differences or watch him depart the club and leave them without a leader as they embark on the second half of this important season.