English Premiership side Swansea City are bracing themselves for the news that the club and their supporters have feared for some time – the inevitable loss of their 49-year old manager Michael Laudrup to a top club.
For Laudrup, it is rumoured, is being considered by Spanish giants Barcelona as a replacement for Tito Vilanova who resigned on Friday.
Laudrup had a great impact on English football last season, leading Swansea to a highly impressive 9th place in the Premiership. He received great acclaim for his astute £2m purchase of Spanish midfielder Michu from La Liga side Rayo Vallecano. Michu, in both midfield and attacking roles, scored an amazing 18 goals in 35 Premier League matches. He was heralded as the best Premiership signing of the season. Under Laudrup, Swansea qualified for the 2013-14 Europa Cup after winning the Capital One Cup. En route to the final, the Swans earned a memorable 2-0 aggregate semi-final win over Chelsea, with two highly impressive performances that showcased Laudrup’s tactical acumen.
Vilanova had an extremely difficult year in charge at the Nou Camp after replacing Pep Guardiola last summer. In December he had to take time off to undergo surgery after suffering parotid gland cancer for the second time and underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. On announcing his resignation, Vilanova said that his ongoing cancer treatment meant he could no longer give 100% to the manager’s role.
There are a number of names being proposed to replace Vilanova and the Catalan giants hope to appoint his successor quickly. Jordi Roura, who stepped up in Vilanova’s absence, seems unlikely to be offered the post. There seems a greater possibility that former Girona boss Joan Francesc Ferrer Sicily, better known as Rubi, who joined Vilanova’s coaching team last month, could be offered the role of caretaker manager.
Michael Laudrup appears to have equally good if not better credentials for the Barça job. He was idolised as a Barcelona player between 1989-1994. As a manager, he earned great plaudits during two spells in Spanish football firstly at Getafe (2007-08) and then RCD Mallorca (2010-11) before taking over at Swansea in the Premiership.
Laudrup, after his highly successful first year at the Liberty Stadium, is said to be on the radar of many top clubs. Earlier this summer he was mooted to be in pole position to replace Arsene Wenger should the Frenchman have left the Gunners.
Many people believe it is just a question of time before Laudrup manages a big club. And clubs don’t come any bigger than Barcelona. The incoming manager faces a huge challenge this season. It would be difficult enough for any coach to live in the shadow of former manager Pep Guardiola. But there is also the prospect of facing tougher domestic competition from Ancelotti’s strengthened Real Madrid side. And an even greater challenge in the Champions League where many teams look even stronger than last season. As things stand, German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, big-spending French side Paris St-Germain, Juventus in Italy and Manchester City in the English Premiership have all improved their squads.
Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins has known for some time the inevitability of losing his manager sooner rather than later. In March, before Laudrup signed a new 2-year contract which contains a reported £5m release clause, Jenkins said that the club were in the “process of looking for the next manager” in case the Danish manager were to leave the club.
So, Laudrup, despite his repeated insistence that he would be managing Swansea for at least another season, must be eagerly awaiting news of developments from the Nou Camp. Surely, his head would be turned by the offer of such a glittering prize. And, if the offer does come, how could his answer be anything other than a resounding ‘yes’?