He’s the Premier League man of the moment. Disproving the stereotype that big men don’t all have as bad a touch as Andy Carroll, Swansea City’s Michu could be on the verge of a shock Spain call-up. It doesn’t make sense, does it?
By Marc Eadie – @Eadie84
Back in August 2012, after his first couple of games in the Premier League, Twitter was awash with compliments for Swansea’s unknown striker Michu – a summer signing from Rayo Vallecano. The praise was so engulfing that even Megan Fox and Ryan Gosling would have found it difficult to attract more attention. Thinking that the flattery was a little premature I was quick to distance myself from the bombardment of superlatives and people falling over themselves to praise his game; cue prolonged blistering form from Michu…
Now in the middle of the January transfer window, Michu, with 13 league goals to his name, looks set to feature prominently in the plans of top European teams looking to strengthen their side and, unbelievably, he may have forced his way in to the thinking of Spanish national team manager, Vicente Del Bosque. Crazy, we know.
It all started in relative obscutiry for Michu at local club, Real Oviedo – a club with whom he has since bought shares in to help aid financially – playing in Spain’s lower leagues. In 2007 he moved to Celta Vigo’s B team, who played in Segunda Division B at the time, and worked his way into the Celta first team squad within a year. A further three seasons at Celta was relatively uneventful and, after his contract expired in 2011, he moved on to Rayo Vallecano. Franjirrojos had just won promotion to Primeira Division and this would be Michu’s first taste of the country’s top league. Despite playing a midfield role on the most part, he scored an impressive 15 goals for the struggling side who, come the end of the season, just survived relegation. And then Michael Laudrup came knocking.
Michu signed for Swansea in the summer of 2012 for two million pounds; that’s not even a tenth of the deals that involved Eden Hazard to Chelsea and Robin van Persie to Man Utd. His style has since been appreciated by many consistently showing his ability to finish clinically and with composure; see his goal against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup first leg for an example of both. He has the same awkwardness that comes with any tall, lanky player but seems to have the required technique to make him less clumsy than the likes of Tore Andre Flo and Peter Crouch.
Credit has to go to Swansea too. Two years ago they were in the Championship pushing for promotion. After an outstanding first year in the Premier league (finishing a credible 11th) they lost their manager, Brendan Rodgers, and one of their best players, Joe Allen, both to Liverpool. Many must have expected Swansea to struggle in keeping to their scintillating standards. They wouldn’t have been the first side to enjoy a debut season in the division. The Premier League takes consistency and Swansea had to find that, and fast. So, they hired former Mallorca manager Michael Laudrup and added to what was already a strong if not star–studded side with the likes of Michu and Jonathan de Guzman.
Vicente Del Bosque was at Goodison Park at the weekend to watch his potential new striker play and, although he didn’t score against Everton, Del Bosque will be looking at the bigger picture. He should be well aware of what the forward can do, Michael Laudrup certainly is: “We say often about Michu – he gets one chance and he nearly scores a goal again,” said the former Barcelona and Real Madrid playmaker. “Like the other day [against Chelsea] – one-and-a-half, two chances and he scores. That is really class.”
On one hand it seems ludicrous that Michu could play for Spain. No discredit to Swansea or the teams before them but he has never played for a top side, proved himself in Europe or won trophies. He is 26 – which isn’t exactly young – and seems to only just be breaking through and showing his ability on a consistent level. You have to wonder why he has taken so long to come to light and what has changed to transform him from a lower league Spanish player to a national team candidate.
Then, on the other hand, international managers, Del Bosque included, have to have a certain level of trust in a player before giving them such a huge token of appreciation in a call-up. Del Bosque will have known about Michu for a long time, but when he has to name a squad to try and win big games will he really overlook the players who have delivered for him before, even with their recent form? Fernando Torres, despite an autumn scoring flurry, is still nowhere near the standard which brought about ‘that’ goal against Blackburn for Liverpool in 2009. David Villa hasn’t quite been the same since that unfortunate leg break last year and Fernando Llorente hasn’t been featuring for Bilbao this season. Spain may have given birth to some of the most gifted footballers of our generation, but they don’t actually have any truly clinical strikers in the mould of Radamel Falcao, van Persie or Edinson Cavani. You might find it difficult to compare the Swansea forward to those players, but the facts are that he is scoring relatively freely – bettered only by van Persie and Luis Suarez in the English Premier League scoring charts - and showing a confidence that Del Bosque’s other options don’t have at the moment.
We all like a good fairytale story and to see Michu turn out in a Spain shirt would be one of the best. Perhaps he will shine, perhaps he will be another Sergio Garcia (this one, not the golfer), but either way he deserves a chance.
Can Michu transform his English success in to international recognition? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below.