Covetous glances being cast at the Swansea City dugout are nothing new.
It is the identity of the onlookers that brings the novelty factor. Michael Laudrup was the most glamorous managerial appointment in the Swans' history and, with City firmly ensconced in the upper half of the Premier League and on the brink of reaching the Capital One Cup final, his fan club has swelled.
When Real Madrid supporters were polled about their preferred successor to José Mourinho, the Dane came third, a result he attributed to a mixture of nostalgia and nepotism.
"When somebody talks well about you it is nice, but remember I played there and have a lot of friends there," said Laudrup, one of the select group to have represented both Real and Barcelona. As it was, the emissary from Madrid to Merseyside came scouting players, and although Vicente del Bosque arrived to watch Michu, he departed with a suggestion for a stopper, should the Spain coach want a similarly hirsute successor to Carles Puyol. "If he saw Chico [Flores] he would be pleased," Laudrup said. "If he needs someone to play at the back …"
Del Bosque is part of Real's past. Laudrup downplayed suggestions he is their future, saying: "I am happy here." Nevertheless, having banked around £10m in compensation for Roberto Martínez, Paulo Sousa and Brendan Rodgers, Swansea have turned exporting managers into a profitable business. Copper was long the city's main industry; now Laudrup is glad his charges are allying their natural style with steel.
"When you play Everton, you know a lot of balls in the air will come," he said. "You need a good performance from your central defenders and they were outstanding. I prefer we play the ball around with 15 different combinations to create a chance. But the opponents are very strong and you play a different way."
In Wednesday's 2-0 cup win at Stamford Bridge, that involved dropping deep, ceding territory and possession to Chelsea. Here at Goodison Park, Laudrup sacrificed an attacker to play two right-backs, with Angel Rangel in front of Dwight Tiendalli, a gambit to combat Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar.
He is making a side who are easy on the eye harder to beat. "We have only lost twice since October," Laudrup said. "That is something Manchester United and Manchester City would be proud of." Indeed, it is a record they share with Everton. David Moyes's side were in the ascendant but the final whistle brought a smattering of boos, a sign they have elevated expectations with their challenge for a Champions League place. "I don't think it's a false expectation," said the Scot. "We are in a decent position and we deserve to be there. We have played well enough to be aiming for third place."
For Swansea, as Laudrup noted, the first objective is to reach 40 points. They are three-quarters of the way there and victims of their own prowess. "We are playing more than other teams because of the success we have," said Laudrup, granted no respite in a relentless schedule.
Not that it has him pining for Spain. "The managers here have a lot more influence on who is coming and going," he said. "I prefer it [to be] my responsibility, because if things are not going well I am the one being sacked." A study of their recent history, however, should tell him that Swansea do not sack managers. They sell them.
Man of the match Ashley Williams (Swansea City)
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