Last season Swansea built on their decent first season in the Premier League with an excellent second season. The keys to this were the off-season appointment of Michael Laudrup to succeed Liverpool bound Brendan Rodgers and the Dane’s top signing; Michu. Laudrup took the possession as a form of defence mantra that Rodgers had used to establish Swansea in the top flight, and added extra width and expansive attacking play. This helped them to a top-ten finish and the first major trophy in the club’s history, the League Cup. Michu cost just £2m and proved to be a revelation, scoring 22 goals in all competitions. Swansea have taken the step from quiet and well run club, to a club that suddenly are supplying top clubs with managers and potentially players. With increased success has come increased attention on the prised assets and they face a battle to keep their two biggest. If Swansea are to maintain their top 10 position it is fundamental that they do so.
Much of Swansea’s rise to success has been built on a philosophical blueprint backed up by consistent and economical recruitment. They have replaced Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers who were poached elsewhere, and continued to grow. But, Michael Laudrup is an entirely different proposition. Having a name like Michael Laudrup attached to them gives Swansea a glamour and prestige that they didn’t have. They have been a respected club for several years, but with Laudrup at the helm they took steps up the prestige ladder. He was able to persuade Jonathan De Guzman and Pablo Hernandez to join from elite La Liga clubs, he kept Michel Vorm and he stole Michu. Laudrup’s recruitment was the difference between Swansea being in the top 10 and not. And it is because of his name, and the regard he is held in, particularly in Spain where he starred for Real Madrid and Barcelona in his playing days. Andres Iniesta calls him the best player off all time. With respect to Rodgers and Martinez, and whoever would replace Laudrup, they don’t possess that pull.
The reason his future is being questioned is doubts over how much funding he will be given. Laudrup jokingly said he needed £200m to take Swansea to the next level and although that figure was tongue in cheek, the sentiment is representative. Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins has said that:
There are substantial funds available to strengthen our squad over the summer while we are also in the privileged position, because of the way we’ve managed our finances over the years, that we do not need to sell anyone to fund those new recruits
Swansea have built themselves up through financial prudence and excellent work in the transfer market. The question for Laudrup is; how much further can he take Swansea? Barring some spectacularly good signings, it’s hard to see how they can ever get themselves much higher than they got last season. They don’t have the budget or size of clubs in the top seven which means they finished second in the mini league last season. There’s nothing to say they can’t force their way in with more good signings, but only Laudrup has the reputation and pull to achieve those. Without him, they could be looking backwards rather than up.
In Michu’s case, his presence at the club in to next season would prove Jenkins’ words. Unless they get a mind blowing offer from a Champions League type club there is no reason for them to sell. He is their poster boy for their excellent transfer business as well as being a key contributor on the field. Goals are the hardest thing to find in the mid level of the Premier League, and they have a goalscorer in Michu. If they sold him Laudrup would follow no doubt.
Sometimes the grass isn’t greener elsewhere and as a manager who has been through turbulence and job loss before Laudrup would be well advised to sit tight and keep growing Swansea in his own image. He is adored and if what the chairman says proves to be the case, well backed. He is the key to their top 10 future but if his demands put the club’s future at risk, or would mean shelling the policy that brought them here, it’ll be a tough summer.