Prolific Michu the template for clubs in pursuit of Swansea’s Spanish flair
Soccer Angles: Striker emblematic of what is a golden era of Spanish players
Swansea City’s Michu (left) battles for possession with Crystal Palace’s Mile Jedinak. Photograph: PA
Given the last few weeks on Wearside, Sunderland fans won’t want to hear the following; given their lack of goals in the Premier League so far this season, West Ham fans won’t like it either.
About 14 months ago Sunderland, West Ham and Swansea were the three clubs that had expressed greatest interest in an under-appreciated Spanish midfielder at Rayo Vallecano called Miguel Perez Cuesta, aka Michu.
But while Sunderland and West Ham thought about the benefits of signing Michu, Swansea knew. A player now ranked among the top 10 bargains in British football in modern times moved to south Wales and promptly scored 18 league goals in 35 starts.
Michu also scored Swansea’s second in the League Cup final at Wembley against Bradford City, having previously scored the first in the semi-final first-leg victory at Chelsea. He scored his name elegantly, repeatedly across the Premier League season and is doing so again.
Aged 26, having played for Real Oviedo, Celta Vigo and Rayo – the last club bringing his one top- flight season in La Liga to an end – Michu’s arrival here turned out to be a most pleasant surprise.
Alex Ferguson said he’d never heard of him, and some might criticise Manchester United for that. But then a year before Swansea called, Michu had been an orthodox midfielder at Celta Vigo in Spain’s second division. He scored six goals.
It was the year in between, at Rayo, that transformed him. Rayo’s manager, José Ramon Sandoval, moved Michu further forward. He got 15 goals. Within 12 months Ferguson and the rest of us had heard of him.
Remember how Swansea began last season at sun-drenched QPR with a new manager in Michael Laudrup and a new attacking midfielder? After eight minutes Swansea were 1-0 up and Michu had announced himself afresh. He scored the second that day, too, on the way to a 5-0 walloping that marked Michu as one to watch and QPR as one to avoid.
Smart transfer business
In Swansea’s next match Michu scored against West Ham in a 3-0 win, which would have delighted West Ham’s scouts. And then in the next he produced the equaliser against Sunderland, which would have delighted Sunderland’s scouts.
It was then the phone calls started. Those clubs which pondered, while Swansea acted, were on to agents about the size of the buyout clause in Michu’s contract. He had cost only €2.5 million from Rayo, the skint third club in Madrid, and the price was a slice of his appeal. Even if they had to double or treble that, clubs who consider themselves bigger than Swansea sniffed a bargain.
However, the answer came back that there was no buyout clause. Swansea may be small but it is a sharply-run club. No set clause meant they could negotiate. In an era of player domination, Swansea had a certain influence.