As Michael Laudrup approaches the end of his first season in charge of Swansea, Vincent Ralph asks how far he can ultimately go.
If you listen to many football observers, there are only two great managers of a certain age. That age is 40-50, and those managers are Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.
If you look a little further afield, the names of Jurgen Klopp and Diego Simeone enter the fray, and rightly so. Both have been outstanding for Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid respectively.
And yet there is another man who deserves a place on the list – Swansea manager Michael Laudrup.
As reports come out that the 48-year-old Dane has a £10million release clause in his contract, it is clear the Swans have no desire to lose him the way they have lost managers before him. This time, should another suitor come along, they will have to dig deep for Laudrup’s services.
When Brendan Rodgers left for Liverpool, it would have been understandable for Swansea fans to fear the worst. And yet they had already seen the departures of Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa – departures that rather than ending their success continued it.
The truth is Laudrup has always been a great coach. His time in England has only reinforced what the wider footballing community knew for some time. Success and a certain ethos have followed the Dane wherever he has been.
It is the ethos to play football the right way; to not be bullied out of that approach and to instil a certain belief in his players and their fans.
In his first managerial role at Brondby it was an ethos that led to two domestic cup wins and ultimate league success. In his next role at Getafe, he gave a glimpse of what would one day be seen in the Premier League, introducing a free-flowing style that saw the Spanish side reach the final of the Copa del Rey and the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.
It hasn’t always gone his way, as an ill-fated stint at Spartak Moscow proved. But he is a manager whose success comes in different guises.
Sometimes, as with Brondby and now Swansea, it comes through cup success; other times, as with Getafe, through rejuvenation. And sometimes, like his one season at Mallorca where he staved off relegation for a club in financial free-fall, from making the best of a bad situation.
In short, it is no surprise he has such a big release clause, not when great managers are so rare.
One day someone will meet that release clause. They would be stupid not to. Because two men cannot fill every vacancy, and as good as Guardiola and Mourinho undoubtedly are, Laudrup is building a substantial amount of proof of his own.
How far can Laudrup take Swansea? And does his long-term future lay at the Liberty Stadium or elsewhere?
image: © swans100