Danish Direction, Welsh Delight
It's only fitting that Michael Laudrup and Swansea City found each other.
After all, the legendary striker led tiny Denmark to heretofore unscaled heights on the world stage. Among other accolades, Laudrup was honored as his nation's most outstanding footballer over the past half-century. Along the way, he rose to prominence with such European stalwarts as Ajax, Réal Madrid, Barcelona, and Juventus; incidentally, but not coincidentally, each of those clubs won league titles with Laudrup on the roster.
When the Danish master decided to remain in football after his playing days were over, he chose the same career pattern that has served the greatest athletes in world sport; Laudrup started small in order to thoroughly learn his craft as a manager. He could easily have traded on his name to land a plush job -- think Kevin Keegan at Newcastle the first time around -- but instead opted to learn the trade from an assistant's perspective with Denmark's national team and then took the reins at Brøndby in his home country, ultimately leading them to a Danish Double -- league title and league cup -- before advancing to Madrid's Getafe, hiccupping at Spartak Moscow, and then solidify his credentials at RCD Mallorca.
All of which prepared Laudrup to accept the challenge of securing Swansea's tenure in the cash-gushing monolith that is the Premiership. The Swans' status is worth an estimated £58million and 400 jobs to the Welsh economy, which is in real terms more significant than the prestige of their being the first Wales-based club to enter the Premiership.
Laudrup's attractive attacking style has also won over casual fans to join the hardcore supporters and fill the team's coffers even more. He installed his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, which puts a premium on tic-tac-toe possession. Laudrup's eye for younger -- and more affordable -- players and their preference to showcase their skills in such a creative system provided Swans with the means to collect their first major hardware -- the League Cup, which carries an invitation to the Europa League -- in 100 years with a 5-0 whitewashing of Bradford City this past February.
Now, complete with a 21st century sponsor in Chinese-based GWFX, an online securities trading platform, a company flush with cash and a desire to raise its profile in Europe. As such, its involvement has produced a modern new kit in a move that didn't please everyone but served a symbolic notice that Swans will fly under the radar no longer.
True, Laudrup and chairman Huw Jenkins have had their bumpy moments, but the management knows the quality they have in their manager and the opportunity that awaits in the Europa League. Given the Dane's depth of experience as a player and manager and his continent-compatible style of play, don't be surprised to find the Welsh club on television screens more frequently than ever before.