Football: Laudrup given Chelsea farewell

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The Independent Online
HAVING KNOCKED FC Copenhagen out of the European Cup-Winners' Cup with Brian Laudrup's goal, Chelsea yesterday showed their gratitude by pushing through his pounds 1m transfer back to his home city, so he could play for Thursday's opponents in their four games before the Danish midwinter break.

Copenhagen's president, Flemming Ostergaard, resigned to missing tomorrow's transfer deadline, planned to travel to England for negotiations next week. Instead he received a telephone call from Chelsea's managing director, Colin Hutchinson, yesterday, barely 12 hours after Laudrup's goal enabled the London side to defeat the Danes 1-0 and reach the quarter-final.

Details were quickly agreed to give Laudrup the move that he might have made last summer, when he elected to join Chelsea on a free transfer from Rangers, rather than Ajax or the ambitious Copenhagen club. Things did not work out from a personal or professional point of view. Laudrup criticised Gianluca Vialli's system of rotating a large squad, claiming that he found it difficult to fit into a team that was changed so often. His goal on Thursday was his only one in 11 games for the club.

Speaking yesterday at the Danish National Stadium, which FC Copenhagen share with their rivals Brondby, Ostergaard said: "Brian is a very special guy. He's very honest. He could easily just have played at 90 per cent. I must also praise Colin Hutchinson and Ken Bates at Chelsea.

"If he had been playing for an Italian club, the management wouldn't have looked at it in the very human way Chelsea did."

Some Chelsea supporters are upset, as they made clear with an obscene banner during Thursday's game. Bates went behind the goal at half-time to remonstrate with the group involved and has now promised to ban any of them who can be identified from photographs.

Newspapers along Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard yesterday carried pictures of an embarrassed looking Laudrup, aware that he had done himself and his new team-mates out of a piece of history: they have never reached a European quarter-final. He added to the fairy-tale element, revealing that he had bet Chelsea's coach, Graham Rix, that he would score with a diving header.

Laudrup said: "I was under a lot of pressure before the game, but I think I showed a lot of commitment. I just went out there to do my best for Chelsea."

Perhaps the holders' prompt action yesterday also took into account how much money that goal could be worth to them when the competition resumes next spring.