The Impact of Michu's £2m Move to Swansea City
The Swans prepared for one of their most important seasons in years. Arguably the toughest challenge for a small club is to maintain their Premier League status for a second consecutive campaign.
It`s difficult enough as it is, they were no longer the "surprise package" of the English top flight, nor were they backed by billionaire owners to attract multi-million pound signings to boost their hopes of survival once again. The biggest setback though which outweighed all of those last Summer was manager Brendan Rodgers` departure to Liverpool.
A long Summer with a long, ongoing search for yet another new manager was hardly what the board wanted as they looked to build on their impressive 11th place finish in one of the best Leagues in World football. Consistency is always the key to success, but it hardly affected the club`s progress since 2004 - a 9-year rise from the Football League basement to the top - that required 4 managers to achieve.
Swansea City have proven to be experts at dealing with a lack of consistency in terms of managers, and last Summer was no different.
Michael Laudrup, widely regarded as one of the best ever footballers, arrived to take charge at the Liberty Stadium to much approval by the fans, but mostly by inevitable doubt from the national press. It was hardly surprising to see that yet again, they tipped the Swans for relegation, believing a change of manager was just too hard to overcome - little did they know that chairman Huw Jenkins has proven to be a master at dealing with such setbacks as these.
The Dane`s first real challenge was to replace Gylfi Sigurdsson`s source of goals - and here`s where Michu finally gets a mention in this article.
The Icelandic midfielder proved to be a super loan signing from former boss Brendan Rodgers - and he was the perfect type of player the Swans needed as they were lacking goals. Main striker, Danny Graham`s started to dry up after a promising start so Rodgers made use of the January loan window to help solve their lack of firepower.
Two braces and three more goals saw Sigurdsson net 7 times in 17 Premier League starts, but unfortunately the club were certain to lose out on signing him permanently. Rodgers left, and the youngster attracted the attention of Spurs, who paid Hoffenheim £6.8m for his services.
That might have been another setback following Rodgers` departure, but it was anything but significant following Laudrup`s arrival - together with Michu - who, to say the least, took the Premier League by storm in his debut campaign.
The 27 year-old needed just 8 minutes to prove his goalscoring quality, firing in a low 25 yard striker away at QPR`s Loftus Road on the opening day of the season.
The Spaniard contributed largely to what was the perfect start to Laudrup`s spell in South Wales. Whilst Michu`s opener was largely helped by poor goalkeeping from Robert Green, the second was an absolute stunner. Again, 8 minutes after kick-off, this time in the second half, Routledge squared the ball to Michu, and from the edge of the area, he curled in a stunning shot to double Swansea`s lead, before Dyer (2) and Sinclair added to QPR`s embarrassment.
More goals followed on a regular basis, and after 9 games, he managed to increase his tally up to 7.
Swansea City`s impressive season under Michael Laudrup - including a Carling Cup win and Europa League qualification, was largely down to Michu`s quality in front of goal. Of course, he was by far, the cheapest goalscorer in the League, with each of his goals costing less than £90,000, compared to the League`s top scorer - van Persie - with each goal costly almost ten times more at exactly £800,000.
It didn`t take long before football pundits and fans wondered how on earth Swansea City were able to beat the competition to sign what was the highest goalscoring midfielder in La Liga the season before - for just £2m.
But was there much competition? You`d think so, after scoring 15 goals in La Liga for Rayo Vallecano in 2011/2012. However, it later came to light that a number of clubs, including a host within the Premier League, were unwilling to take a "gamble" on him. What gamble I don`t know, especially as he only cost £2m due to Rayo Vallecano`s ongoing financial issues.
According to the Daily Mail, although anything from that rag has to be taken with a pinch of salt, an independent scout in Spain urged a number of clubs to buy Michu following his goalscoring exploits in Spain`s top tier.
What`s more surprising though, is that Tottenham Hotspur in particular were made aware of Michu a whole year before he joined the Swans - when he was available on a free transfer after his Celta Vigo contract expired.
Quoted in August 2012, Laudrup said:
'He was offered, I think, to a lot of clubs in the summer, I think he will be a very good player here. I have a feeling that he will. There is a lot of value in the Spanish market right now. There is not a lot of money and you can get some very good deals. I think this is a good deal.`
With numerous clubs left gutted to lose out on Michu and left red-faced after their decision to "risk" a couple of million on a proven goalscorer, British clubs started to change their approach slightly. The likes of Chelsea and Manchester City are usually linked with the obvious players - those that the majority are aware of, but very few had heard of Michu before blowing the Premier League away last year.
However, since Michu`s £2m move to Swansea - who proved that 20-plus goalscorers are available at bargain prices, English scouts flocked to Spain in hope to find another "Michu" - but Laudrup told the local press recently this Summer, that bargains like Michu don`t come around very often:
"I`m the first one to say if we can pay less money then it`s for the better. It`s great when someone like Michu comes along. My problem is that just because you find one Michu, you can`t think you can find a player who can score 22 goals for £2m every year. If it was so easy why does everyone else pay six times more? Because they are stupid? No, because we were lucky to have a manager who knows specifically La Liga very well and players who aren`t known to this league. But that has changed, I can tell you, after Michu, because people I know in Spain tell me that from October onwards they have never seen so many English scouts at every stadium and every game."
Michu flourished in his central attacking role, having the freedom behind the main striker to link up attacks as well as finish them off with stunning goals. It wasn`t just putting the ball in the back of the net, but he`s also proved to be an excellent passer of the ball, he has excellent control and has the ability to pick out key passes before usually receiving the ball back and finishing past the unfortunate goalkeeper.
The Spaniard then had to adapt his game as Laudrup decided to push him up further into the lone striker role as Danny Graham soon became out of favour. It was unfortunate, as Michu was thriving in midfield. He had the freedom in a pocket of space behind the main frontman and was able to catch out the opposition`s defenders by arriving late into the penalty box - making it difficult for them to mark him. A perfect example of this was his headed goal away at Newcastle United.
Michu is most likely to return to his preferred attacking midfield role next season following the arrival of new record £12m signing Wilfried Bony. He revealed himself last season that while he is always pleased to play, he always prefers the freedom in midfield as opposed to the more limited lone striker position.
The 27 year-old now believes that he can be even better next season with Bony in the squad:
"He [Bony] has scored a lot of goals in the past. How many can we score together? I hope he scores 100 and I score another 100!
"That may be a bit too difficult, of course, but he is a super player and it means it is possible I can play in a different position, behind the striker, where I prefer to play. And I hope you will see a better Michu because of that.
"I scored more goals when I played behind a striker last season and I like that position because I can move around and the centre-backs are looking for the striker and not me. I can arrive late from the second line and score goals.
"Hopefully it means more goals for the team. But I do not know what the manager is thinking and where he wants me to play - with the signings we have made I don`t even know if I am going to play at all!"
Somehow I think you will Michu!
Enjoy all of his goals from last season in the youtube video below:
With thanks to Come On You Swans.com for the article.