Michael Laudrup – Swansea

(Getty)

” It feels a little surreal to walk into the Virgin Active health club in Glamorgan on a Wednesday afternoon and see Michael Laudrup leaning against the bar, sipping a cup of coffee alongside the gym members. This, after all, is one of the most talented footballers of all time (Michel Platini’s description), a man so gifted that Pep Guardiola credited the Dane with teaching him everything he knew when they were team-mates at Barcelona in the early 1990s.

If that sounds like high praise, there is plenty more. From Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff, to Romario and Raul, the eulogies, as Swansea City’s players have discovered, go on and on. “He’s a legend in world football — you only have to look at his Wikipedia page to see that,” said Ashley Williams, the Swansea captain, shortly after Laudrup was named as Brendan Rodgers’s replacement earlier this summer.”

….

“It is no surprise to learn that his own philosophy was shaped by the five years he spent at Barcelona under Cruyff as part of the “Dream Team”. Things ended on a sour note, when Cruyff left Laudrup out of the 1994 European Cup final team, but there is no trace of any bitterness. “What we have seen the last 10 years with Guardiola and Frank Rikjaard, everything started in ’88 with Cruyff,” he says. “If there is somebody you have to thank for the last 24 years in Barcelona, it’s Cruyff. He changed the way of thinking.”

……

“I’ve played against them (Barcelona), I even beat them with Getafe and I had a draw with them twice with Mallorca. But we didn’t have the ball. But every manager playing against Barcelona knows what they have to do: very compact, no space in between the lines, when you get the ball you need to keep it for three or four passes and somebody has to make a run. And on the left, when [Dani] Alves is away, you can go behind [Gerard] Piqué, who is not so fast.”

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“When I see a game on the television,” says Laudrup, “and you see afterwards ‘possession percentage 60-40’, that doesn’t say anything for me because it could be that one team is playing the ball between the back four 120 times. It’s the same as when someone says, ‘Look, one of the central defenders had 98% good passes’. Yeah, but it was from here to there [five yards apart]. For me, possession is to keep the ball while you are waiting for the possibility to penetrate. Every pass is for a reason.”

……

“I don’t think it’s just a matter of what number we are going to be in the table because, really, it doesn’t matter if we are 10th or 14th,” says Laudrup. “Who will remember if we have 43 or 48 points. It’s overall — how did they play? I think if you asked the people on the street here, ‘What do you prefer, 10th and changing the style of play or 14th and remain the same style?’, the answer is obvious.”

Continue reading Michael Laudrup: ‘The philosophy of the Swansea team fits mine’

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