Watching the Premier League match between Tottenham and Swansea a few weeks ago wasn’t a particularly riveting, the game wasn’t a note-worthy affair and was settled by a Roberto Soldado penalty as both sides were still finding their feet. What it did represent was a chance to see another instalment in what could become a famous rivalry.
Neither André Villas-Boas nor Michael Laudrup are particularly hostile towards each other, there seems to be a strong mutual respect of the projects that the other is creating. In a few years though we could see them locking horns as the men in charge of one of football’s most famous clashes, El Clásico.
When Jose Mourinho announced that he would be leaving Real Madrid and returning to Chelsea Real Madrid’s president, Florentino Perez began drawing up a list of candidates to replace the Portuguese. Michael Laudrup’s name was never towards the top of the list, indeed Carlo Ancelotti is believed to have always been the favourite but as Marca’s Rubén Jiménez argues, the Dane was doing his best to push himself further up the running order. The League Cup victory in Swansea was an impressive feat but the most notable thing was a poll that AS conducted in February that was completed by over 30,000 Real Madrid fans. The vast majority of fans wanted Laudrup in charge for the next campaign, ahead of the likes of Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez.
As mentioned previously Laudrup was probably never a serious contender for this job, he is still very inexperienced as a manager but he could well be an option further down the line. Madrid don’t have the greatest recent history with managers and if Ancelotti fails to deliver success immediately he could find himself going the way of others before him. Laudrup’s age would allow Perez to concoct something like a “project” which will be designed to last a number of years although there will be no guarantee that any new manager would see out the full length of his contract.
As for Villas-Boas well it was common knowledge that he was on a three man shortlist to replace Tito Vilanova alongside Luis Enrique and Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Spanish football expert Guillem Balague revealed in his column for Bleacher Report that Luis Enrique was at the top of this list but it was the players (one in particular) who pushed for Martino to get the job. Had something gone wrong with that deal though, Balague suggests that it would have been Villas-Boas who would have taken over instead. He also suggests that if Martino’s appointment doesn’t work out then Barcelona will turn to the Tottenham manager.
Rather unsurprisingly both managers moved to distance themselves from such speculation when pressed although Laudrup was far more forceful than Villas-Boas. Both men have watched as others have been appointed and they have quietly got on with their own business, bringing in new players and assembling two exciting squads.
What makes this story extremely interesting is that you could easily argue that the two managers would actually be suited to the job that the other was being linked too. Michael Laudrup’s Swansea play some fantastic football and although he is building on the work done by Brendan Rodgers he has only encouraged that style. He has brought in technicians, players of talent who can ping nine or ten passes around in the blink of an eye. This is something that Barcelona believe heavily in, as everyone knows, and although Swansea’s 4-3-3 is a little different to Barcelona’s the principles are the same. Laudrup likes to have Leon Britton sitting deep, sweeping up and playing short passes to start attacks, in a similar vein to Sergio Busquets. He allows another central midfielder to operate as a box-to-box player and an attacking midfielder to play just off the striker. Both his wide men are comfortable with the ball at their feet and they enjoy cutting inside to play final passes or shoot themselves.
André Villas-Boas on the other hand prefers to play a more direct, counter-attacking breed of football, with his teams being built on pace and power. This philosophy fits in with Real Madrid’s and both he and the club do still look to play attractive football at the same time. Last season AVB deployed more of a 4-2-3-1 but this season he has moved to a 4-3-3 with Dembélé,Paulinho and Christian Eriksen in midfield. If you watch Tottenham play though it is clearly still a 4-2-3-1 with Eriksen the number 10 and perhaps his early experimenting was just until Eriksen arrived. Recently Spurs have used Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend on the wings, two players on the opposite flanks who both like to cut in, Townsend in particular plays a lot like Di Maria.
Watching Swansea and Tottenham isn’t always like watching Barcelona and Real Madrid but at times it is and although the two managers have been linked for opposing jobs perhaps they would be better suited the other way around. Regardless they are both two young, talented managers and they both should have a bright a future in the game.
At the moment they both seem settled, as do, I should point out Barcelona and Real Madrid but football is a funny game. Sackings can happen without warning and a few years down the line we could see them at the helm of the two of the world’s biggest clubs.