Michu and the WPL

The story of Michu’s fall from grace at Swansea City is a familiar one for many Welsh Premier Leagues players…

Garry Monk’s frank admission this week regarding the future of Michu will mean the former idol will bring a huge chapter of his career to close and will slip away quietly from the Liberty Stadium.

With his achievements for the club condemned to the history books, the rise and subsequent fall of the 29-year-old is as dramatic as any I can remember in football and exposes the harsh and cruel nature of the game – something which is often overlooked and hidden amongst the bright lights, glitz and glamour of the Sky Sports and Champions League era of football.

Costing £2 million, the signing of Michu from Rayo Vallecano was the Premier League equivalent of chicken feed when he joined in 2012. One fine debut season and 22 goals later saw Michu become one of most sought after names in the league with his transfer value rocketing. He even made his name on the international stage earning his first and only cap in a World Cup qualifier against Belarus, which he will surely reflect upon as being the pinnacle of his career. But injuries were already becoming a problem for the Spaniard and his second season with the Swans stuttered as he saw his appearances and form dip.

When Swansea decided to ship him out to Italy at the end of his second season, Michu’s career continued to nose dive and he sat out a miserable season at Napoli on the sidelines without making any impact in Serie A.
Whilst Michu’s career has dwindled, Garry Monk has further established Swansea City as a credible Premier League outfit and with his future in the hands of negotiations between Huw Jenkins and his agent, there’s no room left at the inn for the Swans’ faded and forgotten star.

Having seen his dreams slip away I can only sympathise with Michu in his current plight and I know that many players in the Welsh Premier League will be able identify with how he his career has slipped, albeit on a far lower scale.

The Welsh Premier consists heavily of players who have fallen out of the professional game at various stages.

Many WPL clubs in north Wales have players who began their careers as apprentices at the likes of Liverpool and Everton, just as teams in the south are littered with those who have suffered the same fate at Swansea and Cardiff.

Now plying their trade in the WPL where they hope to rebuild their careers, many of the league’s players will be able to tell you of Premier League stars who they once roomed and trained with and share their own personal story of the circumstances that cost them the opportunity of making a living in the game – a sudden change in management, injury, homesickness are all factors which come up repeatedly. You often wonder what could have been for some of these players who now turn out across the principality each weekend and just how close current star professional footballers came to going the same way.

A couple of seasons ago I read a contribution by former, hotly-tipped Welsh prospect Ryan Green (now of Merthyr) to Port Talbot Town’s matchday programme. In it, Green, who was just 17 when he made his international debut, listed the best eleven players who he’d played alongside. I wish I had kept a copy of it now but the side he named read like that of a seasoned pro who’d played over 500 Football League games and yet here he was now sitting alongside me on a coach travelling throughout Wales every other Saturday.

Watching the Welsh Premier can be like watching a field of dreams – but ones which are broken with the players striving week in, week out, dreaming of a return to their professional roots. Michu will carry a similar burden when he completes his probable return to Spain this summer and embarks on the next stage of his career which appears to lie in Spain.

After all, the margins of success and failure and moving onto the next level are incredibly thin at all levels of football.

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