Loving Laudrup

Back in 1992, the European Championships were about to be held in Sweden. The tournament was then thrown into disarray when war broke out in Yugoslavia and with only 10 days to go until kick-off UEFA were forced to invite another nation to the party.

Denmark answered the call and the Danish players dragged themselves away from their holidays and off the beaches to participate at the Euros.

Defying all odds the Danes went all the way to the final and with Peter Schmeichel, John Jensen, Henrik Larsen and co, the beach boys actually won the cup!

Of course their was a Laudrup there.

But it wasn’t the more experienced world class talent of older brother Michael, he missed the tournament after falling out with the coach Richard Moller Nielsen. It was the younger brother Brian, who had only just made up with the coach after a similar rift, who won a medal.

He managed to impress throughout the tournament and he wast voted the world’s fifth best player.

Brian was never as successful as his older brother in his club career though.

They played very different positions.

Brian was a very pacey, tricky winger whose dribbles were legendary. While Michael was also very creative, he enjoyed a slower tempo and had an eye for making the killer pass. He was a technical maestro, almost ahead of his time with his play and who was winner for Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax.

Brian never shared Michael’s confidence. He was an extremely gifted player who at times played world-class football but often wouldn’t push himself to do more at a higher level.

He began his career at Brondby breaking into the first team age 17. Three years and two Danish titles later and Brian was off to Germany.

After one season with lowly Bayer Uerdingen, young Laudrup was ready to test himself at one of Europe’s powerhouses. That club was to be Bayern Munich.

The attacking winger started well in Bavaria grabbing 9 goals in 33 games and was named the Bundesliga’s best striker. Injury and fall-outs with the clubs top brass meant that Brian had a disappointing second year with Bayern. He was soon on the move again.

He secured a move to Serie A where he joined Fiorentina in 92′ on the back of the successful Euros campaign. Although he came to the Viola with a big reputation and the Italians had also witnessed the other Laudrup brother excel in Serie A with Lazio and Juventus, Brian would not enjoy the same success.

In his one and only season as a Fiorentina player, Laudrup couldn’t save the side from being relegated to Serie B. In fact during times of despair the intelligent winger was being played at right back! Seriously I have seen a lot of Brian over the years and he was never a defender. The relegation didn’t go down too well with the clubs ‘Ultras’ who had previously pelted the team bus and protested at the teams training ground.

After the final game of that disastrous season in Florence, Laudrup had to flee the club’s stadium in the boot of his dad’s car as he feared for his own personal safety.

Not surprisingly the Dane was packing his bags once again and he headed north to join the superstars at AC Milan.

The San Siro turned out to be a poor choice as Laudrup fell foul of the three foreigner rule that UEFA enforced in the early 90s.

At Milan, manager Fabio Capello had five foreign stars to pick from, so often the talented winger found himself behind the likes of Zvonimir Boban, Dejan Savicevic, Jean-Pierre Papin and Marcel Desailly.

It’s no real surprise that Laudrup failed to succeed in Italy. His creativity was often restricted in a league notoriously defensive and all about discipline.

In July 1994, the Danish international joined his fourth club in four years. He arrived in Scotland and his life changed forever.

Laudrup found his footballing home, he was allowed creative freedom from gaffer Walter Smith and the legendary nine in a row squad added a new member to their family.

The professional, some times up tight attacker learned to relax and have fun with party hungry teammates such as Paul Gascoigne, Andy Goram and Ally McCoist.

He adapted to the British game immediately. His twists and turns on the wings would often leave his Scottish rivals in knots. His favourite move, where he would often fake a cross before carrying on down the line or cutting back, was used often but even though it seemed obvious, defenders were continually dumped on their backsides.

He had no problems with the physical style in the Scottish game either and would often ride rough challenges.

Along with Gazza, Laudrup was extremely influential in Rangers gaining the final three league championships that secured nine in a row.

His flying header, yes I said header, actually secured the record equalling ninth league title in a row.

For me and many other Rangers fans, Laudrup became a living legend and I still appreciate the fact he played his best football in Glasgow.

His game against Hearts in the 1996 Scottish Cup final was probably his finest in a Gers jersey. He opened the scoring after running on to a ball over the top by Gordon Durie and then putting a half volley past Jambos keeper Gilles Rousset. Then he doubled the lead when his weak cross turned shot found its way through the goalkeepers legs.

He then turned provider, setting up Durie three times. The first was a lovely cross from the left, then he unselfishly laid on the Scot for his second when the Dane was in the box and then finally he crossed in from the right-hand side allowing Durie to nod in his hat-trick.

The Hearts players were run ragged and completely undone by Brain Laudrup that day.

He left on a Bosman free transfer in 1998 and signed up for Chelsea. After only a few months in the English capital, injuries hampering his stay, Laudrup decided he had made a mistake. So he left Britain to return home.

After a woeful time with Brondby’s rivals FC Copenhagen, Laudrup joined Ajax in 1999. This would end up being his final season and he actually did well in Holland but was forced to retire at 31 due to injury.

Remember when I was going on about the differences between Brian and his older brother Michael?

Well they had a few things in common too.

Both had big mouths that would often get them into trouble with their coaches. But more importantly they were both extremely unselfish players.

Brian would often show more pleasure in setting up a collegue than he did in scoring himself. He had the great habit of getting past all the defenders in front of him, realise a goalkeeper would charging at him and he would simply lay it off to a fellow teammate to tap in an easy goal.

He would score sublime goals when he chose to take the shots on and he was equally as creative on the right as he was on the left flank leaving full backs on both sides quaking in their boots.

I started this article talking about Laudrup playing for Denmark.

He won the Danish player of the year award a record breaking four times. The attacker was capped 82 times for the national team scoring 21 times, although like Welsh counterpart Ryan Giggs he was often criticised for not always being able to answer his countries call.

Along with his brother, Brian ended his national career with Denmark in France during the World Cup in 1998.

He went out with a bang!

Their final game was a quarter final match against 94′ champions Brazil lead by Ronaldo. The Laudrup brothers actually out ‘Braziled’ Brazil.

In the opening minutes Brian tore down the left, he entered the box and his cutback found Martin Jorgensen and the Danes took the lead. Bebeto and Rivaldo would then both score giving the Brazilians the lead going into the break.

After half time Roberto Carlos made a mistake in his own box, the ball bounced into the path of Brian Laudrup and without a touch to settle the ball down, he just struck it hard and true into the roof of the net!

He ran at the Brazilian defence that night with his typical deadly dribbling inviting fouls or passing challenges with ease.

Had the world questioned the Danes skill and ability before that night in Nantes, Brian proved once and for all he was supremely gifted and on his day could play with the best of them.

Often overshadowed by his brothers brilliance, a man often looked at as a bit of a bottler… Brian Laudrup never lived up to his full potential. Injures, fall outs and that season in Florence scared his confidence throughout his career.

I was just lucky that Brian Laudrup excelled at Ibrox and spent his best years entertaining the Rangers faithful with some incredible skill.

For that I am truly grateful.

If you like the top image you should check out the MINIBORO website and its shop.

One Response to “Loving Laudrup”

  1. he was not voted 5th player of the competition, he was voted 5th for fifa world player of the year even thoe he was injured half that season for bayern. impressive.

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