x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Swansea strike it rich with Michu signing from Spain

Laudrup's scouting of the Spaniard is proving to be something of a masterstroke

Miguel Michu had been prolific as a scoring midfielder in Spain and he is joint second among the goal-scorers in England already.
Miguel Michu had been prolific as a scoring midfielder in Spain and he is joint second among the goal-scorers in England already.

Of all the close season signings by Premier League clubs, Swansea City's Spanish attacking midfielder Miguel Michu made the biggest first impression.

Michu scored twice on his debut and provided an assist as the Swans beat Queens Park Rangers 5-0 away on the opening day.

Man of the match in a game one teammate told him would be "very tough" to win, Michu troubled the QPR defence by running from deep and arriving late in the box, perfectly timed for the balls which were played to him.

QPR should have heeded the warning signs. Despite not being a striker, Michu scored 15 goals in Spain's Primera Liga last season, a figure more impressive given it was his first season in the top flight and he was playing for struggling Rayo Vallecano.

His total was more than he had scored in the previous four seasons combined and he attributed his success to Jose Ramon Sandoval, the coach, for playing him every week. It was clear he would move, and probably to the Premier League, but his decision to go to Swansea City surprised.

Michael Laudrup, Swansea's manager, had much to do with the move. The Dane, a legend in Spain after spells playing with Barcelona and Real Madrid and respected for the attacking football espoused by clubs he coached, knew all about Michu from coaching clubs such as Mallorca until last season.

Michu also followed a recent but already well-worn path between Iberia and south Wales, where Swansea have an excellent recent record of buying bargain-priced Spanish talents since Roberto Martinez was in charge from 2007 to 2009.

He encouraged players such as Jordi Gomez and Andrea Orlandi to leave Barcelona for Swansea, not an easy sell.

Laudrup, who took over in the summer, signed Michu for just £2 million (Dh11.8m). Bigger clubs wanted him, but transfer fees have become a rarity among financially distressed Spanish outfits.

The £2m also represented a 100 per cent profit as Rayo had signed him for free a year earlier after he had spent four years at second-division Vigo.

Laudrup saw rich pickings in Spain and approached his former club, Mallorca, for Chico Flores and Villarreal for another former Mallorca player, Jonathan de Guzman. He also knew about the potential of Valencia's Pablo Hernandez, who became Swansea's £5.5m record signing.

Having other Spaniards around helped Michu get used to life in northern Europe. Angel Rangel told him about the weather, to which Michu became the first person to use the words "humid" and "Swansea" in a sentence by replying: "Even if Swansea is the most humid city in Britain, it's still cold coming from Spain."

Michu is no Spanish sunflower who will wilt in the cold. He grew up in Spain's wet and green north near the hills and coal mines and steel plants of Asturias. If there is one part of Spain that most resembles south Wales, it is there.

Nor were his opening-day heroics a one-off. His six goals so far put him level with Luis Suarez and just a goal behind Robin van Persie and Demba Ba at the top of the scorers' chart.

Thanks to his efforts, Swansea are comfortably in 11th, the same position they finished last term, their first in the top flight since 1983. Brendan Rodgers was replaced by Laudrup, yet Swansea sit above Rodgers's Liverpool side when some feared they would have a difficult second season.

If the elegant Michu continues to shine then it is difficult to see him staying at Swansea, but being part of the Spanish enclave for a Welsh team in an English league is perfect for him right now.

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