Swansea City play attractive football. It is now an ingested and accepted fact. Like Paul Scholes being wonderfully gifted, but homicidal in the tackle.
Much of this is down to the hard work of Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers, who cultivated a culture when they were in Wales. Now Michael Laudrup is in charge and the Dane has seen firsthand what total football can be, having stopped off at Juventus, Barcelona and Ajax in a whirlwind career.
So far so good. The season has gone alright thus far.
Then he had to go off message, though. I suppose when intricate patterns and thinking in triangles, rather than boxes, is your remit it is impossible to churn out common sense sound bites…
“If Swansea play the last game against a team and a third team pays Swansea to win the game, I really don’t see anything bad about that,” Laudrup said this week. “It’s just a bonus. For me, match-fixing is somebody pays someone to lose a game.”
If Chairman Huw Jenkins chocked on his supper when he heard this, who could be surprised? Such a flamboyant and bizarre sentiment can only attract negative attention.
In talking about needing to clarify match fixing regulations and terminology Laudrup has insisted upon an acceptance of bounty and the beginnings of influence from outside investors, sponsors and rival sides. Would it really sit comfortably with chairmen and the UEFA watchmen monitoring Financial Fair Play (FFP) if a wealthy sponsor (let’s say a Russian oligarch) bounded in with a kitty for whoever beat Manchester City?
It is no surprise that a spokesperson for the English FA hurriedly released details of the current rules: “A Participant shall not, directly or indirectly, offer, agree to give, give, solicit, agree to accept or accept any bribe, gift or reward or consideration of any nature which is, or could appear to be related in any way to seeking to influence the outcome or conduct of a Match or Competition.”
Winning is still an outcome, Michael. There is enough crazy, unregulated, unmanageable money in the English Premier League, Michael. You’re taking the Michael, aren’t you, Michael?
The timing is dire, as well. After this outlandish argument Swansea will welcome Everton to the Liberty Stadium. An Everton team perennially described as tight for cash and always having to scrape around for bargain signings and having a minute squad. The kind of constantly overachieving team who need investment, but are realistic enough to know that they cannot court unsavoury sponsors.
Will pragmatist David Moyes and his efficient Toffees take offence to Michael Laudrup’s words? If they have then Swansea better think outside of that box in tactical terms, because cancelling out play is Everton’s forte. And a wound-up Marrouane Fellaini tearing through your midfield, swinging elbows, is not something you want. Ever.