He does not turn heads, as he always did in Madrid, Turin and Barcelona, but the receptionist seems slightly breathless when she sees him striding across the car park and there's a minor flutter about the Liberty Stadium as he sweeps through it. Even on a slate grey day in Swansea, Michael Laudrup has an aura.
The arrival of an individual, whose image a young Andres Iniesta pinned to his wall, at a football club which was close to bankruptcy 10 years ago is a fairly remarkable one, even now that Swansea are big enough to have provided Liverpool with a new manager, and Laudrup does not pretend to have known what lay beyond the Port Talbot steelworks when he turned off the M4 for a new home. "I'm from Denmark, a small country, so I understand how it is," he says. "I still remember when I arrived in Italy [at Juventus] in 1983 and I said 'Denmark'. They said: 'Ah... that's the capital of Sweden'. I said: 'No! Hell, no!'"
Though he's learning fast, the curve is about to get very steep. Peter Schmeichel, Jan Molby and John Jensen, the Danish friends whose counsel he sought after Swansea asked him to succeed Brendan Rodgers in June, had only positive messages but did warn him that "you know as well as we do that the second year in the Premier League will be very difficult" for Swansea. That was before Rodgers snaffled Joe Allen, Tottenham took Gylfi Sigurdsson and Manchester City started looking at Scott Sinclair. It has not escaped the former Real Mallorca manager's attention that predictions are circulating that the three promoted teams, Swansea and maybe Norwich are the favourites to go down.
"If it's difficult to reach the top, it's more difficult to stay there," he says. "And that's because the surprise is not there any more. And when there is not a surprise you have to realise it will be more difficult. "
The Swansea chairman, Huw Jenkins, appointed him, on a four–year deal, because he wanted continuity of the passing game inculcated at the club by Roberto Martinez and Rodgers. Laudrup will produce something very similar.
"Yeah, I'm a possession guy, I like to do that," Laudrup says. "That's my roots and that's also why I'm here. The big steps at this club have already been made here and you cannot continue building like that because you will end up at the top of the Premier League and I think it's a bit early to talk about that.
"Now you have to put the small blocks on top. That could be to be more solid, to have alternatives when Plan A is not working; small things, tactically, which maybe could still surprise the opponent. And most important you want to try to find the next Leon Britton, Joe Allen. That's the challenge, and what people really want."
If it's difficult to reach the top, it's more difficult to stay there. That is because the surprise is no longer thereReuse content