Michael Laudrup Coy on Barcelona Links, Ready to Return to Management 'Tomorrow'

Alex DimondUK Lead WriterMarch 25, 2014

Michael Laudrup at the Laureus Unity Cup, with Vitor Baia and Fabio Capello
Michael Laudrup at the Laureus Unity Cup, with Vitor Baia and Fabio CapelloIan Walton/Getty Images

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Michael Laudrup was not expecting to be out of work at this stage of the season, but he is trying to make the most of the enforced layoff for as long as it continues.

He still has a house in Swansea—the club that dismissed him, in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, at the start of February—but has set about spending his unexpected unemployment by addressing the other parts of his life that he was forced to neglect while on the Premier League touchline: spending time with his family (his daughters live in different countries), for example, and also getting involved with a number of charitable projects.

One of those took him to Malaysia on Tuesday, as he participated in a star-studded Unity Cup for Laureus, for whom he is an ambassador. The match saw a number of legends of football—including the likes of Jari Litmanen, Steve McManaman and Christian Karembeu—face off against one another, aided by local youth players.

Events such as the Unity Cup underline Laureus' goal to use sport as a tool for social change. Kids of all ages were invited to show off their skills and receive expert coaching before Laudrup and Co. strutted their stuff.

Wednesday's glamorous World Sport awards are the other side of the coin, fulfilling Laureus' second stated aim of celebrating sporting excellence—although the tone, as it was at the Royal Selangor Club, will be somewhat sombre given the recent news about Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

There was certainly plenty of sporting excellence on show on Tuesday. With Johan Cruyff in the opposition dugout, the setup of the event meant Laudrup found himself being coached, and occasionally substituted, by current Russia coach Fabio Capello.

“Some of these players used to be my players [during their playing careers],” Capello, in a rare moment of levity, joked to reporters. “They were saying to me, ‘Gaffer, you must be really old!’”

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 25:  U19 team coach Jari Litmanen shakes hands with Michael Laudrup during the Laureus All Stars Unity Cup ahead of the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards at Royal Selangor Club on March 25, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (P
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Laudrup was presumably not one of those players, having left Real Madrid in the same summer Capello arrived for his first spell at the Santiago Bernabeu. Nevertheless, he is hoping to resume his own fledgling managerial career as soon as possible.

That ambition is complicated by ongoing legal wrangling between him and Swansea, with the Dane still expecting compensation after his departure.

Swansea appear to disagree, and the issue could rumble on for a number of months, but Laudrup is not prepared to put his coaching career on hold until the dispute is resolved.

He is ready to return to management this week, although he thinks the summer is a more likely prospect.

When asked if he would wait until his complaint with Swansea is resolved before he pursued another job, he told reporters, “No. If that takes 18 months, why should I wait?

“It doesn’t really change a lot to me. I don’t want to mix up those two things. One has nothing to do with the other.

“Whatever happens there, however it ends, if it goes to court, I can still take a job tomorrow if I want to. That doesn’t change.”

SWANSEA, WALES - OCTOBER 27: Manager of Swansea City Michael Laudrup looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and West Ham United at Liberty Stadium on October 27, 2013 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Despite the nature of his departure from the Welsh club, Laudrup says that the experience has not soured him on the possibility of managing in the Premier League again, although he does not expect an opening, there or abroad, to crop up before the summer.

“I’m staying with the positive things and learning from the negative things,” he reflected on his recent experiences. “Top 10 and a cup [last season with Swansea], nobody can that away from me.

“Maybe [I will return to the Premier League], I cannot say yes or no. I love English football, it has great crowds, a great atmosphere.”

Laudrup’s departure from the Swans may have dented his reputation around the country, but his overall record at the club—including winning the Capital One Cup in 2013—seems only to have enhanced his lustre on the continent.

Nick Rostron-Pike of talkSPORT is one source to report Laudrup is on Olympique Marseille's radar. In recent days, there has even been speculation linking him with one of his former clubs, Barcelona.

Laudrup was coy on the latter detail (albeit, in what might have been a calculated move to encourage the links, without going as far as to deny it outright), but stressed that he did not expect clubs to start thinking about managerial changes until the end of the current campaign.

“That is just saying things,” Laudrup noted, when asked about the media report. “It’s always positive when you are mentioned [with big jobs], but five or six names are always mentioned. Maybe in a month’s time some of those names change.

“It’s always positive when you are mentioned, but let’s take it for what it is.”

When pressed on reports of contact from Barca, Laudrup paused before saying, “I did not hear about that—well, I heard about it but not like that.

“We have eight, nine games to go—at this stage of the season nobody in football is looking to change. That happens just after the last games. The last two weeks and before the World Cup, that might be when things start to happen.”

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 25:  Johan Cruyff coach of Team YR1M  and Fabio Capello coach of Team Laureus look on from the touchline during the Laureus All Stars Unity Cup ahead of the 2014 Laureus World Sports Awards at Royal Selangor Club on March 25
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Despite that, speculation surrounding Gerardo Martino’s future at Barcelona remains intense. The Argentinian could well depart the Nou Camp regardless of whether or not he wins La Liga.

The club may have begun preliminary discussions about a new head coach, then, although club legend Cruyff suggested to reporters that board-level disagreements and interference really need to reined in if the club is to achieve the level of success demanded.

Laudrup might consider the same to be true of his tenure at Swansea, believing he would have turned things around had he not be fired so soon.

Under Garry Monk, his old club are just four points above the relegation zone—and only one if Sunderland win either of their two games in hand—but he is nevertheless confident they will avoid the drop.

“Yes, I think so,” he said. “I think so. You can’t change the [recent] results, but I’m sure they will get out of it.”