As he heads for the Swansea City exit door, Fraser Watson asks where it all went wrong for a man once considered prolific, and rated at £30 million by the club……..
It was a marriage seemingly made in heaven – but one now set to end with the minimum of fuss.
When Miguel Pérez Cuesta (Michu) arrived at the Liberty Stadium in the summer of 2012, he did so very much an unknown quantity on these shores.
Despite an impressive 2011/2012 campaign in La Liga with Rayo Vallecano, scoring 15 times in 37 games from midfield, the Spaniard had not attracted the attention of Europe’s best – and his £2 million move to Swansea did not seem to warrant much in the way of newspaper headlines.
Of course, a debut season that then saw him strike 22 goals, and play a major hand in Swansea’s first ever League Cup success, soon elevated him to cult hero status in South Wales.
And the manner of his goal haul – the clinical finishing, the composure under pressure, and the habit of striking in crucial games – left many Premiership clubs asking how Michu had slipped under the radar, with Sir Alex Ferguson famously saying he would be speaking sternly with the Manchester United club scouts.
The only concern amongst the Liberty faithful was whether Michael Laudrup could hang on to a man whose estimated value had risen to £30 million.
And yet, two years down the line, his seemingly imminent departure after a nightmare loan spell at Napoli is unlikely to be met with any protest from supporters or players alike.
Latest reports link the 29-year-old with a £4 million move to West Ham.
So where did it all go wrong?
At the start of his second campaign, notable strikes against Valencia and Liverpool, not to mention an international debut for Spain, suggested there was little sign of the notorious ‘second season syndrome’ that seemingly plagues Premiership players following a breakthrough year.
But they proved to be two of just six league and cup goals he managed for the club, as ankle surgery kept him sidelined for the vast majority of the season.
However, amidst the injury problems were growing rumours of discontent and isolated behaviour.
Stories of training ground arguments and transfer requests, not to mention his apparent unhappiness over the sacking of Laudrup, made for uncomfortable reading.
Indeed, his on-field demeanour after returning from his lay-off at the tail end of the season was that of man whose desire was dwindling, and it was of little surprise when Garry Monk allowed him to leave for Napoli on a year-long loan the following summer.
But further ankle surgery saw him make just three appearances for the Italian club, and the likelihood of him ever returning to the clinical forward of old now seem remote.
Of course, as Michu, barring a miraculous turnaround, heads for the exit door, his standing in Swansea’s history will be debated.
It is far-fetched to suggest he will go down as a club legend on the basis of one campaign, and the form of Wilfried Bony, and later Bafétimbi Gomis, ensured his absence did not prove critical.
But despite not possessing the all round game of Bony, the trickery of Trundle, or the longevity of Robbie James – his ability to take a chance under pressure was better than I’ve ever seen from a player, at any level, in a Swansea shirt.
His inevitable absence won’t be mourned, but his contribution to the club’s history, albeit for just one season, should never be forgotten.