Rangers fans were devastated when Laudrup left for Stamford Bridge in 1998
Brian Laudrup has spoken of his regret at leaving Rangers for Chelsea.
The Dane is considered one of the greatest players in Scottish football history, and etched his name into the Ibrox history books when he scored the goal that clinched nine-in-a-row against Dundee United in 1997.
He left Glasgow the following year along with the likes of Ian Durrant, Stuart McCall, Richard Gough, Andy Goram and Ally McCoist, with Walter Smith’s reign coming to an end.
Laudrup departed having made 150 appearances and won five trophies, but his time at Stamford Bridge was considerably less successful.
He failed to see out the season in London, making just 11 appearances for Gianluca Vialli’s side before returning to Denmark with FC Copenhagen.
Laudrup, who ended his career with Ajax in 2000, said: “All the ingredients were there at Rangers, on and off the pitch. But then came the end of the 1997/98 campaign.
“When it was announced that Smith was going to leave at the end of the season – or was ‘nicely sacked’ as he has said since – it changed things.
“It felt like the end of an era. Had he stayed at Rangers, I think I would have too. But a lot of players were leaving and my contract was nearing the end.
“I certainly admit I wasn’t at my best in that ten-in-a-row season. I don’t look for excuses, but one reason was that it took me so long to decide what to do.
“All of a sudden, it was about where to go next and all the considerations tied into that for your family.
“I could sign a pre-contract agreement from January and actually spoke to an agent about going to America. But that was picked up by a newspaper, so I left it.
“Then came Chelsea. Perhaps I put myself under pressure to come up with a decision. Having it sorted means you can find a house, a school and everything else. I wanted to make it as smooth as possible.
“Maybe I should have heeded the signs, because there is a story attached to my first real meeting with the club.
“I flew to London to have a chat with Ruud Gullit, who was then the manager. I was picked up at the airport but the guy in the car told me I’d be meeting with Gianluca Vialli instead. As a player, he could tell me all about the club and living in London.
“I thought that was odd. Anyway, I get to this meeting and have a wee espresso with Vialli. Then Colin Hutchison, the Chelsea managing director, tells me that Vialli will be my manager if I sign because he has just replaced Gullit that day.
“I was like: ‘What?!’. I didn’t know what to say.
“Even so, the situation progressed and I signed a contract. But there came a point when I felt it wasn’t the right decision.
“I actually spoke to Chelsea before the World Cup that summer to explain my feelings. Understandably, they didn’t see it my way. By then, I realised I’d put pen to paper and would just have to get on with it.
“I did, but joining Chelsea was the wrong thing for me. I loved the guys there but I hated the rotation system they used.
“There were some rumours about Dick Advocaat being interested in bringing me back to Ibrox, but I never spoke to him about it.
“For me, playing for Rangers was all about Walter Smith. He persuaded me to join and I loved working under him.
“Going back wasn’t really on the cards, as much as you sometimes felt it might have been nice.”