A season to remember for Getafe
Getafe, the fashionable team with the fashionable coach, are facing one of the most special moments in their short history; they are poised to take on Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup quarter finals, an unimaginable achievement in their first season in a European competition.
Firm and humble, Michael Laudrup has taken the 'azulones' to the Copa del Rey final, given the club mid-table security in the league and taken them on a remarkable European adventure.
Speaking to ESPNsoccernet.es, the Dane tells us about his approach to management and his plans for Euro-Getafe.
During the summer we saw your name linked to several Spanish clubs, a league you know extremely well as a player. What was it about Getafe that made you join?
I had been given very good references on Getafe and the team played good football with its previous coaches and the club's philosophy is based on playing well. Also, for my family and me, we wanted to return to this great city.
The president Ángel Torres does have something other chairmen lack maybe, in the sense that he had trusted in three young coaches: Quique Sánchez Flores, Schuster and yourself, and has also given you time and space to work, something rare in top flight football...
We're not that young anymore. What we have in common is that all three of us have been top level footballers. It's important to have space to work although it's true it's not that common in football nowadays as you usually don't have such time.
I imagine the first few months, with a tough start in the league, weren't ideal for you as a debutant coach. Why was it such a bumpy start and what was it that made things change to get the best version of Getafe back?
It was due to several things, if it was just one thing it would be very easy to change. It was a mixture between changing players, eleven to be exact, a coach change, sendings off and injuries. Despite all that we played well, even at the start although we weren't lucky scoring.
I saw the team's idea, and yours too, was to play and enjoy yourselves regarding UEFA Cup games. Did that approach make you pull through in the league and Cup?
Having fun is a bit exaggerated. We have always said that the important thing is the league and we still think the same. That doesn't mean we threw away our chances in the UEFA Cup and Copa del Rey. We want to win all our matches, but always thinking that the league is the important thing, and although we're in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals, that hasn't changed.
With only Getafe left in the UEFA Cup as Spanish representative, what are your realistic hopes now you have qualified for the quarter-finals? Getafe is in the position to link a third edition, after Sevilla's two titles, to win and have another Spanish champion.
We've been drawn against the favourite to win the title but, as we have done in all our games in this competition, we're going to try to do our best and see how far we can get and see if we have what it takes to beat Bayern and get through to the semi-finals.
It's good to see the spirited Getafe back and actually going strong in three competitions. What's your approach to succeed in all three?
Playing every three days during so many weeks obviously requires good planning to get the most our of the available players. Sometimes we have had up to ten injuries but despite that we have reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals and the Cup final, as well as being in a comfortable position in the league table.
There have been lots of injuries in the squad this season. Is it getting tougher to build a competitive side in three competitions? In that sense, Getafe is in a similar position to Barcelona.
As I said before, it's normal that when you play three times a week during so many weeks for the team to wear out. It's logical for us to have so many injuries, especially muscle ones, when the competitions have been loaded with games because of EURO 2008.
Speaking to players, they seem to appreciate a coach who is a former player because he can understand them more perhaps. What's your relationship with the team?
I think it's better to have a coach who has experienced similar situations to the players although in football you also have great coaches who have never played.
Is it very different to have a team with quite a few players on loan? On the positive side you know they are ambitious to prove themselves, on the other, you know they will probably leave at the end of term.
The most important thing to think about is the present time, but then it's also true that at the end of the season we have to plan the following one. Obviously it's not ideal to sign ten or twelve players every year but maybe a modest club has to accept that. Also, for modest sides with a tight budget, to count on two or three players on loan is a way of both cutting costs and having good players.
This season we had five former Barcelona players coaching first division clubs: Espanyol, Valencia, Real Madrid, Recreativo (Victor Muñoz) and Getafe... Is it time for a new generation in coaching?
It makes sense for clubs to start looking for younger coaches, although it's also the case that some clubs rather rely on the 'safer' bet with the experience of a veteran coach.
Having played at both of the biggest teams in Spain, you must understand what Madrid and Barcelona are feeling this season: Madrid seems to work perfectly whoever plays and Barcelona, despite having an excellent side, doesn't have confidence...
My experience here in Spain is that the league is always won in the last two matchdays, so to talk about a team having a clear way for the title when there are ten games left doesn't make sense. I think that both clubs have had good times and at the moment they're both struggling a little bit, but then that's normal because the competition in Spain is so high.
Before you signed for Getafe you said you and your family felt comfortable in Spain. Do you see yourself settling here? What are your future plans?
Yes, I love living in Spain. I always said that I consider it to be my second country. I was here for seven years as a player and I like their football and their lifestyle. With coaches you never know what the future has in store...