FC Barcelona Legend 1989-94
Born in Frederiksberg, Denmark on June 15th 1964, Michael Laudrup was one of the most elegant and classy players in recent football history and the creative genius of the Dream Team.
Speaking personally, as a recent arrival in Barcelona as yet not fully decided which Liga club I would end up supporting, it was Laudrup’s arrival at Camp Nou at the beginning of the 1989-1990 season that tipped the balance in Barça’s favour.
Laudrup clearly had talent from an early age and was already a Danish international by the age of 18.
Just a year later in 1984, he left his home club of Brondby and was signed by Italian giants, Juventus, whose side featured legends such as Michel Platini and Paolo Rossi.
The heavy competition for a place in the side combined with a series of injuries meant that Laudrup never managed to fulfill his potential at Juventus and when Johan Cruyff brought him to Barcelona, few fans would have predicted the effect he would have on the team.
Laudrup also played as a forward, he was basically an attacking midfielder, whose real talent was making impossibly precise passes to teammates from incredibly unpredictable positions.
His pinpoint assists along with inventive one-touch football, elegant ball control and ability to send defenders the wrong way brought almost immediate admiration from the fans, myself included, who him as the ‘footballer in evening dress’.
At a time when English was just beginning to be taught in Spain, commentators would use expressions such as Made in Laudrup and Enjoy Laudrup as signs of sheer admiration for his extraordinary footballing skill.
The team won the Copa del Rey in 1989-90 but it wasn’t until 1990-91 with Laudrup, Koeman and Stoichkov as the three star foreign players that FC Barcelona won its first Liga of the 1990s.
The next season brought another Liga and Barcelona’s long-awaited first European Cup and two more Ligas were to follow in in 1992-93 and 1993-94.
However, in the Dream Team’s last great season, Cruyff had signed Brazilian forward Romario, at a time when only three foreign players could be fielded in the Spanish Liga.
This meant that Koeman, Stoichkov, Romario and Laudrup were competing for the three regular slots and the fact that Laudrup found himself on the bench more often than he would have liked brought him into conflict with the often dictatorial Johan Cruyff.
Things finally came to a head after Barcelona’s 4-0 defeat against AC Milan in the European Cup final, the game that in hindsight brought about the demise of the Dream Team.
Michael Laudrup desperately wanted to play the game not only because it was a European Cup final but also because his brother, Brian, played for AC Milan and it was one of the few chances for the two brothers to play against each other.
The fact that Laudrup was left on the bench combined with the humiliating defeat meant that Laudrup, whose contract came to an end anyway at the end of the season, decided to leave FC Barcelona.
Despite having said that he would only leave Barça to return to the Danish League, out of a combination of revenge against Cruyff and the desire to show he still had a place in top-flight football, Laudrup ended signing for Real Madrid.
Although it was very galling to see him playing for the eternal rival, unlike many other Barça fans, I could never fully bring myself to consider Laudrup a traitor.
His arrival had marked the start and his departure marked the end of the Dream Team and he had brought me so much enjoyment.
I was also fully aware that life under Cruyff wasn’t exactly the easiest situation to be in for a mild-mannered gentleman like Michael Laudrup.
Laudrup played two seasons for Real Madrid, which included them winning the Liga in 1994-95 and their 5-0 thrashing of Barcelona in El Clásico the Santiago Bernabéu.
Incidentally, Laudrup had also played in the game in which Barça beat Madrid 5-0 in Camp Nou so he must be one of the few players in history to have participated in 5-0 victories for both sides.
In 1996, Laudrup accepted a tempting offer from Japanese club, Vissel Kobe, where he played a season, before returning to Europe to play for Ajax, where he retired in 1998.
Since retiring, his coaching career has taken him to jobs as assistant coach with the Denmark National Team and head coach at Brøndby IF, Getafe CF, FC Spartak Moscow and RCD Mallorca.
Since 2012, he has been coach of Premiership side Swansea City.