Football: Laudrup longs for freedom in blue

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The Independent Online
BRIAN LAUDRUP has played for three of the biggest clubs in Europe - Milan, Bayern Munich and Fiorentina - in a lengthy career at the top, but Chelsea's recent signing insists that it was the four years he spent with Rangers which made him the complete player who shone on the world stage at France 98. For it was in Scotland that he rediscovered his passion for the game.

And he is confident that he can have the same impact on the Premiership as he did on the Scottish League if he is ensured the freedom on the pitch that he was given north of the border.

Laudrup, who hopes to make his Chelsea debut in the Super Cup final tomorrow night against Real Madrid in Monaco after missing the start of the Premiership season due to a back injury, made his international debut for Denmark at the age of 18. The promise of early spells at Brondby and Uerdingen in Germany seemed to be fulfilled when he moved to Bayern Munich and he was snapped up two years later to play in Serie A in 1992.

But his frustration grew in two seasons spent in Italy, playing a total of just 40 games for Fiorentina and Milan, and his career dipped.

"It was very difficult for me in Italy, as I lost the joy of football," said the 29-year-old. "In Italy you play very strictly to a certain scheme. You have to play in a certain position and role, and if I don't get the freedom on the pitch, then it becomes very difficult for me."

He escaped to Rangers in 1994, but the idea that he has wasted his time since then in Scotland, where he won three titles, clearly still rankles.

"I had my best time in Scotland. My joy of football came back there, and I think it's certainly made me a more complete player," he insisted.

"I've never been as consistent playing not only for my club, Rangers, but also for Denmark. Some players have said to me that it must be easy up there, but every game for Rangers is like a cup game. You can compare it a little bit to Manchester United - they're the team that everyone wants to beat.

"England's clubs have far more money to spend on players than in Scotland. But I still think I've benefited from my four years in Scotland as the physical side is very much the same there as in England."