In the wake of Swansea City’s sensational 5-0 victory over Bradford to lift the League Cup last weekend, manager Michael Laudrup may have made himself one of the most sought-after managers on the continent.
Laudrup is widely regarded as one of the most exceptionally gifted footballers of all time. His time spent at Barcelona (1989-1994) and Real Madrid (1994-1996) earned him plaudits far and wide.
Johan Cruyff assessed his ability as a player in the following terms:
"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."
Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta names him as the best player in history. That’s how good he was as a player. However, it is the words of UEFA President Michel Platini that strike a chord on this occasion, after Laudrup dismissed the suggestion that his name is being linked with the manager’s job at the Santiago Bernabeu should it become vacant in the summer.
"One of the biggest talents ever. The best in the world on the training pitch, but never used his talent to its full during matches… Michael had everything except for one thing: he wasn't selfish enough,” claimed Platini.
I wonder whether this lack of selfishness Platini described is what has prompted Laudrup to play down speculation of a move to Madrid.
Whilst he was a Barcelona legend, his move to Madrid was drenched in controversy from his reported fallout with Cruyff and his insistence that Barca would not win the title following the 1994 World Cup; he became something of a poster boy for the Real versus Barca feud that still exists today.
"People say I wanted to go to Real Madrid just to get revenge. I say revenge from what? I've had a perfect time; five fantastic years here.”
“I went to Madrid because they were so hungry to win, and they had four or five players who went to the World Cup. I said this would be perfect; new coach, new players, and hungry to win."
That is what he said upon arriving at the Bernabeu and I wonder whether he still has that same hunger and desire to win major trophies now – by the looks of his Swansea side who, after only gaining promotion into the top tier of English football the season before last, have now been challenging for a European place all season.
The verve and tenacity they played with, not only last Sunday but against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United – they have beaten or matched the very best England has to offer.
Speculation that Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho will be leaving Madrid at the end of the season persists week in week out and, whilst it could all be smoke and mirror, some might say there’s no smoke without fire.
Mourinho could very well make his move in the opposite direction – back to Chelsea – but I wonder whether Laudrup would be the ideal candidate to replace him in the Spanish capital.
"To be in front of two huge names like Rafa Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti - both have won league titles in Italy and Spain and the Champions League - I'm very grateful," Laudrup told Sky Sports News.
However, neither Benitez nor Ancelotti were Madrid senior players, never mind idols and legends for the Spanish giants. Benitez has hardly set the world on fire since taking the reigns at Chelsea and Ancelotti has plenty to be getting on with spending all that money over in Paris.
In the midst of Mourinho’s sideshow – the madness, the mind-games, and the manifesting discontent amongst the players, the board and the fans – I wonder whether a Real Madrid old boy might be just the man to turn the club back around. He’s certainly got to be a contender now.
image: © http://www.flickr.com/photos/rukna/