Swansea boss Michael Laudrup has worked wonders in his short time in Wales, and has admitted recently that Chelsea made an indirect approach to gauge his availability over the summer, prior to José Mourinho’s appointment.
Despite the early stages of negotiations, the Dane made it clear that his future lay at the Liberty Stadium and rebuffed the west Londoners’ advances to install him to the Stamford Bridge hotseat.
With Mourinho now at the helm for the second time, what influence would Laudrup have had if he was appointed as manager ahead of the former Real Madrid man?
The first observation is that the west London team’s style of play would be decidedly different. Laudrup’s appointment at Swansea has seen the continuation of Brendan Rodgers’ attacking style, where the Welsh side break down opponents by keeping possession relentlessly.
Swansea have become an even more offensive and dangerous side since the Scandinavian’s appointment, with Michu and others revelling in the space and freedom he is afforded by his manager. With the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Juan Mata in the Chelsea forward line, Laudrup at the Stamford Bridge helm would have been a mouth-watering proposition.
The more results-driven Mourinho has a tendency to keep it tight at times, and his teams can come across as defensive on occasion. In light of this, games at Stamford Bridge may well have been more of a spectacle if Laudrup was in charge right now.
In Laudrup’s Swansea, the unsung heroes are his central midfielders, with the likes of Jonathan De Guzmán, José Cañas and Jonjo Shelvey the key men in running the possession-focussed style of play. There is an argument that the centre of the park is Chelsea’s only potential weak point, with the strength in depth found elsewhere in the squad not apparent in the boiler room.
Frank Lampard and Ramires are certainly a competent pairing, but if Laudrup had been installed as Blues boss, surely a new top-drawer central midfielder would have been added over the summer. With ineffective African duo John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien the only real recognised deputies, this would have improved the Chelsea squad more than the signings of Willian or André Schürrle, where the Blues already have a wealth of top players.
Whether Laudrup would have been the man to lead Chelsea to immediate success remains to be seen. The Dane is reminiscent of a former Blues boss, André Villas-Boas, in his approach. Both are ambitious younger managers who like to work with a group of players, improve them individually and as a team, and progress as a result.
This approach can take time, and as Villas-Boas found out, time is the one thing that Chelsea managers are not afforded. With the level of expenditure on the playing squad and lofty expectations of Roman Abramovich, Laudrup would have had to deliver instant success, not the promise of it in the future.
Mourinho has been there and done it, and his experience means that he was most likely the correct choice as the new Chelsea boss. Laudrup is still evolving as a manager, and although the Blues job was not right for him this time round, one gets the feeling that the Dane will manage a top European club or two in the future.