Paulo Sousa: the forgotten man of the Swansea story

The Swans take on Arsenal in the FA Cup tonight in high spirits

Swansea’s remarkable success this season has drawn acclaim and admiration from all sections of the football community. While Michu’s goalscoring exploits take centre stage, and their unexpected progress in all three major domestic competitions continues unabated, Michael Laudrup is establishing for himself a place alongside Brendan Rodgers, and Roberto Martinez before him, in the esteemed managerial lineage of 21st-century Swansea.

The fairytale narrative of a fallen giant, a once title-challenging side consigned to the fourth tier of the football league, only to dust itself down and return to the higher echelons of the beautiful game leaves football purists purring. Neglected in this now well-told tale is the role of Paulo Sousa, the forgotten man of the Welsh club’s resurgence.

Laudrup is believed to have inherited a footballing philosophy which runs directly from Martinez, through Rodgers to the present day. Sousa’s year in charge is for the most part overlooked, erased almost, but his involvement, and his ensuing fall from grace, is an intriguing episode of the Swans’ rise to prominence.

The Portuguese manager took charge at the Liberty Stadium in June 2009, succeeding Martinez, who had taken the top job at Wigan that summer. Sousa’s limited experience to that point had seen the two-time Champions League winner spend a turbulent 26-game period as QPR boss, where he was sacked after falling out with chairman Flavio Briatore over the club’s transfer dealings.

Despite the inglorious five months spent at Loftus Road, which saw just seven league victories, Sousa maintained a good reputation following an earlier spell as assistant first-team coach to Carlos Queiroz with the Portuguese national team. His glittering playing career, which saw European success with Juventus and Borussia Dortmund in the mid-nineties, as well as international plaudits as part of Portugal’s golden generation alongside Luis Figo and Rui Costa, gave him great standing in the game.

Sousa topped a list of notable candidates for the role, which included Gus Poyet, Gary Speed and Aidy Boothroyd. He became their 12th manager in 14 years, promising to continue their footballing ideology that was developing at the club as he signed a three-year contract.

Sousa was under pressure from the start following the great job his predecessor had done in his two years with the club. Martinez implemented an attractive passing style which earned promotion from the third tier in his first full season in charge. The Spaniard took them to the brink of the play-offs the following year, finishing in eighth place, before he was lured to the Premier League by Latics chairman Dave Whelan. But Sousa was young, still aged only 38, bright, stylish, and also Portuguese, a characteristic that still held great attraction in the post-Mourinho glow.

In his first and only season in charge, Sousa marginally surpassed Martinez’s achievements, taking the Swans to seventh in the table, their highest league position in 27 years. A run of just three wins from the final 13 games of the season meant Sousa’s side missed the play-off places by a solitary point, pipped by Ian Holloway’s Blackpool. As the pressure built towards the end of the campaign, Sousa made public his frustrations regarding the financial constraints that he felt were put upon him.

Sousa then left the Swans to take the vacant post at Leicester. His decision to walk away angered some, who claimed he showed a lack of loyalty to a club which had offered him a second chance after his brief encounter with Briatore.

Sousa was sacked after just three months in charge of the Foxes, with the club bottom of the table having won just one of their opening nine games. Swansea ended that season in euphoria at Wembley as Scott Sinclair’s hat-trick earned Brendan Rodgers’ team top-flight football for the first time since 1983. Rodgers became the first manager to take a Welsh team into the Premier League; two weeks earlier Sousa was appointed coach of Hungarian side Videoton.

Rodgers continued to achieve success in the Premier League, ensuring his team avoided relegation while showcasing the talents of Sinclair, Joe Allen, and soon-to-be-named Welsh captain Ashley Williams. Sousa’s Videoton failed to reach the Champions League group stage, while relinquishing their league title to Debrecen. He left Videoton this month, with the club 12 points off top spot.

Rodgers’ replacement, Michael Laudrup, is in many ways a similar appointment to that of Sousa, three years earlier; an intelligent, well-liked foreign coach, one of the best European footballers of his generation, who started his managerial career as assistant coach of his national side. Laudrup has taken Swansea to the next level in the latest chapter of a fascinating tale. Lost in the whirlwind success of the club is one of European football’s greatest players, Paulo Sousa; the forgotten man of the Swans’ story.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high