He didn't invent it, but he sure took advantage of its existence. He was the man of the manita: clad in the sublime, gorgeous, and all-around brilliance of the blaugrana blue and red, he achieved greatness with a 5-0 thrashing that team; a season later, dressed this time in their drab and unconvincing "royal" garb, he achieved infamy with a 5-0 defeat of the Catalans he had represented just a few months before. From one end of the spectrum to the other in such a short time. Why, my cule hero, would you besmirch your legacy so?
That Michael Laudrup won 5 consecutive league titles in Spain--4 with the Good Guys and 1 with Team Evil--is a testament to his skill and durability. He was instrumental in all of those seasons, but mainly we're going to talk about the first 4. You know, the important ones. The ones that mean something. That 5th was just random chance that should be forgotten forever. Partisan? Who, me? Never. Those were back in the day, before most of you were born, while I was living in the comfy confines innocence. 1991-1994, all captured by the Dream Team, all won with style, flair, and Pep Guardiola (except that first year where he only played 4 times--keep your facts to yourself). These were the Golden Years, the years of trophies and happiness, of Cruyff and feeling. These were the culmination of so much and, it turns out, the beginnings of something else entirely. It's that flair, that attacking verve, that movement designed to create space instead of fill it that we all remember and call Barça DNA and it came to pass, at least in part, because of this.
In 1990-91, a year after finishing 3rd, 11 points behind Real Madrid, and 6 years after their previous league title in the 1984-85 season, Barça captured the league, collecting 57 points (at 2 points per win) to runner-up Atleti's 47. The other capitaleños sat 1 point back of the colchoneros, bringing the previous year's victory full circle on them. That first victorious year, Laudrup played in 30 of the 38 league matches, scoring 9. The next year he scored 13, his best since his first year with Brondby in the Danish 1st Division when he scored 15 in 24. In 1993-94, he was a sub for the clasico, coming on at 2-0 and assisting on the 4-0 and Romario's 3rd of the night. You can watch highlights here. Zubizarreta and Guardiola both played that day. The next year Laudrup started in RM's 5-0 victory over Barça, but this time for the other side. There is no footage of the game known to man. Do not bother looking for it. For those of you keeping track, however, Luis Enrique also scored for los blancos that day.
Laudrup retired from playing in 1998 after stints at Vissel Kobe and Ajax rounded out his career. He has since coached the Danish national team as an assistant, Brondby, Getafe, Spartak Moscow, and now Mallorca, who Barça play tomorrow (Saturday). They've met once before this season and that ended 1-1 at the Camp Nou. Now they play in Mallorca at the Iberostar in a match the club is billing as the biggest of the year. For Laudrup, it's another chance to play a former club and for us, it's another chance to remember what a great player he was and what a damned decent coach (at least) he is now.
Here's to you, Great Dane, and here's to your team putting on a show worthy of your personal style.