Why Mallorca weren’t sad to see new Swansea manager Laudrup go
Swansea City have announced that they have appointed former Real Mallorca Head Coach Michael Laudrup as their new manager, following Brendan Rodgers’ exit to Liverpool earlier in the summer. The Premier League side is the first which the Dane has managed since leaving the island in September 2011 following the sacking of assistant Erik Larsen.
The 48-year-old completed negotiations with the Premier League club on Friday and will arrive in Wales next Thursday to sign the contract. Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins has stuck to his vision for the club naming a man with a similar philosophy to his former manager to take the club forward.
Indeed it was that same philosophy which drew cash-strapped Real Mallorca to the Dane in the summer of 2010. With Los Bermellones newly taken over by Llorenç Serra Ferrer, the vision of the club was to focus on youth production to make itself economically viable. And with Laudrup, the club had appointed a coach who liked to play attractive football whilst focusing on younger players.
The honeymoon period was a good time for the club. Despite a couple of dodgy losses to Sporting Gijón away, Espanyol at home and Real Zaragoza away, Laudrup’s tactical prowess had allowed his team to steal some good results. A 0-0 draw at home against Real Madrid, as well as a 1-1 away draw in Barcelona, were both overshadowed by away wins over Valencia and Sevilla. But then they started to run out of steam.
Running out of steam
Sometimes one news story can define a season. And perhaps that story came on the 1st December 2010 when goalkeeper Dudu Aouate told press that no one should get carried away with their good form as ‘the second half of the season is always more difficult‘. He wasn’t wrong.
That comment came off the back of two straight wins against Sevilla and Málaga. The following three matches all ended in defeat, including a 1-0 home loss to Racing. Mallorca were struggling to score. And this was despite the club signing Fernando Cavenaghi in the summer. Laudrup wasn’t a fan of the Argentine, who fell behind B team striker Sergi Enrich in the pecking order. This frustrated fans due to the fact Cavenaghi had managed to net 6 goals in what few chances he was given in the team.
Director of Football Llorenç Serra Ferrer agreed to sign a new striker in the January transfer window to solve the issues. And in mid-January, Laudrup sanctioned the departure of Cavenaghi. But on the final day of the transfer window, there was still no new striker as talks with Anthony Ujah stalled. Pressure was building. Only the day before Laudrup and his team had been humiliated 4-0 at home by Sporting Gijón.
The final day of the transfer window came with huge drama. Anthony Ujah arrived in Mallorca for his medical after terms had been agreed with both the player and his club. But with just hours of the window remaining, both parties asked for more money. Mallorca, still under administration, were backed into a corner and the deal collapsed. This left Laudrup furious with Serra Ferrer and he went on to criticise the club’s handling of the deal.
With no Cavenaghi, no Ujah, and several other players who were marginalised by the Dane – Mallorca went on to face the rest of the season with what they had. But Laudrup just couldn’t pick the squad up. Deflated and playing without confidence, Mallorca only managed to pick up 17 points from 19 games in the second half of the season. On 2012 results alone, Mallorca finished in 19th place. Including 2011′s results, things weren’t much better.
Despite entering May 2011 with the real threat of relegation looming over their heads, Laudrup’s team could only pick up 2 points from a possible 15. They were saved on the final day of the season by results elsewhere, as they themselves lost. So despite being credited with ‘keeping Mallorca up’, did Laudrup keep Mallorca up – or did other teams keep Mallorca up?
Relations between Laudrup and the Board were badly strained after months of bickering between the two. The club wanted Laudrup out but couldn’t afford to sack him (the press weren’t too keen either), whereas Laudrup himself was determined to carry on and make a success of the club.
Despite having the summer to recover, Mallorca started the season just as badly as they ended the last. One deflected goal from Jonathan de Guzmán, who left the club days later and was the point of more bickering, was all Mallorca had to show from their first four games where they suffered three defeats before Laudrup resigned.
His assistant, Erik Larsen, told Danish press that he should’ve been given a bonus for the sale of Jonathan de Guzmán after he compiled the report on the Canadian-born midfielder. He criticised the club and called majority shareholder and Director of Football Serra Ferrer a ‘bad man‘. He was duly sacked for gross misconduct. But this proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Laudrup who walked out on the club.
Life after Laudrup
Former Athletic Club Head Coach Joaquín Caparrós took charge of the club in October. It took some time, but slowly Caparrós started to elimate the basic mistakes that had become second nature to the team. He installed a strength, a consistency, into the team. But more importantly, he installed a signature and genuine belief along with it. Mallorca became comfortable in soaking up pressure before launching swift counter attacks using the sheer pace of Chori Castro, Michael Pereira and Emilio Nsue. It worked to great effect.
For much of their match up with Real Madrid in January, Mallorca were the better team and were mightilty unfortunate to be beaten 2-1 after taking the lead and then wrongly having a goal ruled out for offside. But they recorded impressive wins of Real Sociedad, Villarreal, Atlético and Racing.
May 2012 was very different to May 2011. From mid-April, Caparrós’ side notched up five wins in six meaning that on the final day of the season, they were in pole position to qualify for Europe. Unfortunately for them, they came up against Real Madrid in the Bernabéu.
Needless to say that Mourinho’s newly crowned champions were comfortable in victory and Mallorca missed out on Europe. But, after Laudrup’s year in charge, we were just happy we had Caparrós.
Verdict on the appointment
Laudrup’s tactical ability is as you would expect considering his ability as a player. His philosophy is similar to that of Rodgers’ and his desire to work with younger, cheaper players will no doubt be a welcome aspect to his appointment for Huw Jenkins. Not to mention, Jenkins has good control of the club. It is more than stable. And perhaps without that worry, Laudrup will be able to concentrate on his job rather than worrying about fights with the board.
But my concern is whether he is actually a leader. Because when Mallorca’s good start faded away, he didn’t seem to have the motivational ability to pick the players up. He never seemed to be in control. And for the final few months of the season, he just seemed to be out of ideas.
Because he is of a similar mould to Rodgers, he won’t need to change the world when he joins up with the team. And I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Swansea start the season well. But the big question for me will be when they hit a patch of bad form, will he be able to pick up morale enough to get them back out of it? I have my doubts.
I would love to see Laudrup successful at Swansea. He was a fantastic player and a very intelligent and articulate man. And if my concerns don’t start to appear on the surface, this has the potential to be a very astute signing by Jenkins.