The making of mighty Michu: He grew up with Cazorla, scored for fun in La Liga and now he's a flying Swan
22:05 GMT, 12 September 2012
Michu apologises a lot. He says sorry for eating during this interview, he says it again when his phone buzzes. Most often, he says sorry for his expanding but incomplete vocabulary. Speaking English is a big deal to him.
‘I am not happy when I do not do it right,’ he says. ‘I want to say what I think and that is hard. I must get better.’ He then mutters in Spanish before throwing his hands in the air when the right word comes to mind. ‘Practice,’ he says. ‘In two months I will be very good, I promise. A teacher comes to my flat three nights a week for two or three hours so I can learn. I will soon speak well.’
It’s Michu, not Swansea City, who pays for the lessons and when it comes to Facebook and Twitter he does the English translations. Angel Rangel, the elder statesman among the club’s Spaniards, helped with this when Michu first joined from Rayo Vallecano in July, but now the midfielder wants to do it himself. ‘I want to learn and this is the best way,’ he adds. ‘I like to read English newspapers, watch the television, talk to people. I can then learn more from my team-mates. I will be better when I talk English properly — I believe that.’
Pleased to Michu: Swansea's new star shows off his trademark celebration
This interview took place on Tuesday;
Aston Villa host Swansea on Saturday. He will be at least two hours of
lessons further into his learning by kick-off and that doesn’t bode
well for Villa boss Paul Lambert. The less articulate version of Michu,
26, has already made something of a mark on the Barclays Premier League.
Full name: Miguel Perez Cuesta
Height: 6ft 1in
He scored 15 goals for Rayo Vallecano last season — his first in La Liga. His celebration of holding his hand to his ear stems from silencing the Granada crowd when he scored in Rayo Vallecano’s 1-0 victory last season. They had abused him after a missed penalty the season before.
Two goals, one delightful in its
execution, came on his debut at QPR. Then there were strikes against
West Ham and Sunderland, making it four in his first three games. Like
Gylfi Sigurdsson, his predecessor in Swansea’s midfield, he rarely
scores a bad one. Unlike Sigurdsson, his team-mates don’t complain
privately about his work-rate.
He is perfect for Swansea but also
not what you might expect. From an advanced position behind the striker,
he passes well, beats players, can poach and shoot from distance with
either foot. Above all, he’s a thinking footballer — and man — who is
comfortable taking possession in small spaces.
But he’s also 6ft 1in, dwarfing Leon
Britton, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer in Swansea’s midfield. He wins
headers; he is the target for long balls and crosses. When Michael
Laudrup spoke of adding a Plan B and a greater goal threat he was
thinking of Michu as key to both. And to think he cost just 2million.
Say my name: Michu celebrates pulling Swansea level in the 2-2 draw against Sunderland
‘The Spanish market, because of the
economy at home, is good for foreign teams now,’ Michu says. ‘Santi cost
Arsenal 15m, 16m. That is not much for him.’ He is talking, of
course, about Arsenal midfielder Cazorla. The pair grew up at Real
Oviedo, in Michu’s home city in northern Spain.
‘I remember one funny game,’ Michu
says. ‘Santi was on the left, going on the outside and beating two,
three players. So good. Then they started saying to themselves, “Push
him in on to his right foot”. They did and he beat three players. He is
right-footed but they could not tell because he was so good with his
left. I think he is the best player at Arsenal — 15m for him is a very,
very good deal. You’ll see.’
Michu, otherwise known as Miguel
Perez Cuesta, is from a sporty, middle-class family. His father, a
manager at an electricity supplier, claims to his sons that he was good
enough to be a professional. Brother Hernan, 31, played for Real Oviedo
and their mother is a teacher who ‘also likes football’.
Michu started young, signing for
Oviedo at ‘five or six’ and stayed until 21, but missed the club’s
better days, playing more than 100 games in the third and fourth tiers.
‘We were a big team,’ he says. ‘I remember Stan Collymore coming for a
very short time when we were in La Liga. But then we had money
On the front foot: Michu goes past Samba Diakite in the 5-0 rout at Loftus Road
In 2003, shortly before Michu scored
on debut, the club were relegated to the third tier and immediately
forced down another level because they had not paid their players. Michu
hedged his bets by studying business administration and management at
the University of Oviedo — ‘I did the first year of a four-year course
and it went well. I will definitely return and finish it at some point’ —
but decided to focus on football.
He stepped up in 2007 to the second
tier to join Celta Vigo, another former La Liga team suffering after
over-spending, but progress was slow. ‘I was there four years and I
think we had eight trainers,’ he says. ‘None really believed in me. I’d
play one game and be on the side for three. A footballer needs to feel
his trainer believes in him.’
That figure came in Jose Ramon
Sandoval, the coach of Rayo Vallecano. He had won promotion to La Liga
playing passing football and wanted Michu to be a creative force in his
midfield in 2011-12, but the club were pitifully poor.
Against a backdrop of strike threats
from players (Michu says he was always paid on time despite reports he
occasionally went unpaid at each of his Spanish clubs), Michu
flourished. ‘Money is not too important to me,’ he says. ‘Winning is
important. Goals are important.’
Making an impression: Michu battles against Kaka at the Bernabeu
He scored 15 — the most of any
midfielder in La Liga — and some pundits now tip him for a place in the
national squad. In a cheap frame in his tiny office, Sandoval kept a
picture of Michu, the star of a swashbuckling little team that somehow
stayed up. The parallels with Swansea were obvious.
‘I watched them on TV last season,’
he says. ‘When the offer came I was very happy. In Spain every person
knows Michael Laudrup.’
Vallecano needed money and Swansea
made the best offer, despite Michu’s agent approaching ‘nearly every
club in the Premier League’, according to one prominent figure at
Swansea. ‘It has been a dream,’ Michu says.
And what about the interest from other teams ‘I am sorry, I know there was interest but I do not know what clubs they were.’
They are probably feeling quite sorry about it as well.