The greats of football have an innate ability to slow down the process of a match, finding time when everything around them continues at surprising speed.
Throughout the history of the sport, countless icons have been described as languid, their natural ability sometimes mistaken for an ease that makes mere mortals green with envy.
Michael Laudrup was one of those players, able to dominate a game or an entire occasion without seemingly going out of his very first gear.
The Scandinavian superstar drifted across the courts with a graceful gait, inviting challenges before somehow feigning and unleashing the perfect pass on a teammate’s path.
Laudrup is one of the best footballers of his generation – or any – generation and the tallest to hail from his native Denmark, a view so widely held that it borders on unanimity.
A look at the praise addressed to the Dane paints a startling picture of an artist whose greatest masterpieces have come in the colors of the European elite.
Laudrup’s emergence took place in Kjøbenhavns Boldklub and later in Brøndby, where the talents of a promising midfielder were quickly discovered with suitors across the seas.
Liverpool came close to signing the Danish teenage footballer of the year in 1983, only for the deal to collapse following a change in the terms of the contract and for Laudrup to sign for Juventus instead.
Foreigners rule in Serie A saw the midfielder spend two seasons on loan with division rivals Lazio, before winning the Scudetto on his return to Juventus in 1985/86.
That summer, Laudrup was part of a Danish team that remains revered to this day, as a team dubbed “Danish Dynamite” made their presence felt at Euro 84 and the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. .
Neither tournament delivered silverware after a semi-final and a final 16 outing, but the Dane’s exciting side have won admirers and even tangible accolades.
Sepp Piontek’s squad included wonderful footballers in Morten Olsen, Allan Simonsen and Preben Elkjær, but the new Laudrup has become the crown jewel of a team that has captured the imagination with their cutting edge football.
After beating Scotland in their 86th World Cup opener, the Danes beat Uruguay 6-1 in their second game, a game that included a wonderful solo goal from Laudrup as ‘he squeezed and worked his way through the defense to score an iconic goal. individual efforts.
Michael Laudrup scores a superb individual goal for Denmark against Uruguay in the 1986 World Cup.
A class act! ??pic.twitter.com/4pyT2sc6AS
– Football reminder (@FootballRemind) April 14, 2021
This proved to be the highlight of Laudrup’s career in a major international tournament, having been a glaring omission by the Danish squad which upended the chances of winning Euro ’92 following a disagreement with manager Richard Neilsen on his pragmatic approach.
Euro ’92: The Laudrup brothers and a very Danish fairy tale
Despite his emergence as a star, Laudrup’s time with Juventus has not always been easy and after four seasons with the Bianconeri he has signed for a Barcelona side starting to rise under Johan Cruyff.
At Laudrup, Cruyff found the total footballer for his Total Football team, becoming the Catalan’s creative hub with his ability to unlock defenses with dribbles, darts and sounding passes.
From his arrival in 1989 to his departure five seasons later, there was arguably no better footballer on the planet.
Laudrup’s omission from the illustrious list of Ballon d’Or winners is puzzling, both to those who played alongside him and to those who witnessed the enigmatic magic he brought to Catalonia.
In five seasons he won four league titles, the Copa del Rey, two Spanish Super Cups and the first European Cup in Barcelona, the golden age of the Spanish team crowned after beating Sampdoria in Wembley in 1992.
Laudrup was among the catalysts of Catalan domination, the composer of the team symphony and the ammunition line which Hristo Stoichkov and Romario then feasted on.
It was effortless and elegant, his first touch absorbing and his timing impeccable.
The croqueta – a skill in which the ball is transferred quickly from one foot to the other to slalom between tackles – has become his trademark, his unparalleled dribbling among players of his time as he coaxed the challenges of defenders before escaping.
Add to that his ability to find almost impossible precision passes during the run and Laudrup’s skills were a recipe for impending greatness.
For Cruyff, he was almost a footballing reincarnation of the Dutch icon himself, with the Barcelona boss praising a talent capable of bringing his philosophy and principles to life.
“When Michael plays like a dream, a magical illusion, determined to show his new team their extreme abilities, no one in the world comes close to his level.”
Their relationship, despite Laudrup’s public insistence, however deteriorated, with Cruyff serving as the midfielder a number of indirect compliments during their time together.
Some had the impression, at least, that Laudrup did not have the will to really become the defining player of his time, his languid style often giving the impression of a talent operating in him despite an ability to transform the bonds to the highest level.
It was an assessment that Michel Platini – the resident superstar during Laudrup’s time with Juventus – certainly believed, calling Laudrup “the world’s best player in training” and wondering if he was suffering from his own selflessness.
Cruyff also wondered how far Laudrup’s rise could have been, had he been the product of a different environment.
“If Michael had been born in a poor ghetto in Brazil or Argentina, the ball being his only way out of poverty, he would today be recognized as the greatest gaming genius of all time.
“He had all the abilities to reach it but lacked that ghetto instinct, which could have led him there.”
Cruyff and Laudrup’s increasingly divisive relationship came to a head after his omission from Barcelona squad for the 1994 European Cup final, sidelined as Romario, Stoichkov and Koeman were selected as the three authorized foreign players of the club.
The Catalan club were beaten in a shock loss to AC Milan in Athens, with Laudrup leaving soon after for the most controversial destination.
Having been an integral part of Barcelona’s rise to Spanish supremacy, his next challenge was to loosen his former side’s grip on La Liga under the colors of rivals Real Madrid.
Its impact was immediate.
Laudrup’s first season at the Bernabeu saw a new challenge from the capital club, with the Dane the central figure in Los Blancos’ pursuit of the championship.
His first season saw Real Madrid crowned champions while Barcelona finished fourth, with a campaign including an unforgettable 5-0 victory for the new Laudrup side against their former employers.
Having been part of the Barcelona squad that had beaten Real by the same score the previous season, it was a visual representation of the shift in the balance of power with Laudrup’s decision proving the moment that he made it possible.
#The classic Captions: Michael Laudrup
“It’s an honor to have played for two of the biggest clubs in the world.” pic.twitter.com/qNtUMjV1A7
– English LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) May 1, 2018
He orchestrated a victory that remains engraved in the folklore of the club, helping the third as claimed a hat-trick in the first half.
The Chilean had been the main beneficiary of Laudrup’s arrival, rebounding from a disappointing campaign to win the Pichichi Prize with 28 goals – the Dane’s influence did not lose on the club’s top scorer.
“I always say Laudrup had three eyes, not two like everyone else. As a striker I had to be aware all the time because he could give you a chance from scratch and you had to be prepared for that moment.
“Michael was a magician and one of the greatest players of all time.”
Laudrup only spent two seasons with Real Madrid, but his impression was such that he was voted 12th among the club’s greatest footballers of all time in a vote in 2002.
– Real Madrid CF 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) March 16, 2017
He was also named the best foreign player in Spanish football of the past 25 years at the turn of the millennium, ahead of names such as Cruyff, Romario and Ronaldo Nazario, among others.
Romario and Raul both hail Laudrup as their all-time best teammate, while Andres Iniesta has expressed his belief that the Dane is the greatest talent the game has known.
Individual accolades and stats may paint a different picture, but in the eyes of those who have witnessed the legend of Laudrup, there has been little better.
To read – Midfielder magicians – Juan Román Riquelme, the brilliant but imperfect diamond
Also Read – Michael Laudrup’s best assists in a Barcelona shirt