From surprising Ferguson to inspiring Haaland: Michu's rapid rise and fall from Premier League wonder to early retirement


Few players have ever taken former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson by surprise, but Michu can count himself among them.  

After a single season in La Liga with Rayo Vallecano following a few lacklustre years in Spain's second division, the striker was brought to England in 2012 by Swansea manager Michael Laudrup and quickly defied all expectations. 

On his Premier League debut, Michu scored twice and claimed an assist in a 5-0 win away against Queens Park Rangers. The goals would continue to flow that season as he finished the 2012-13 league campaign with 18 strikes to his name. 

The Spaniard's electric form in front of goal would prove even more crucial in the League Cup that year as he helped fire Swansea to an unlikely piece of silverware. Michu struck in their surprise semi-final victory against Chelsea, before also finding the back of the net in a 5-0 win over Bradford City in the final. 

As far as debut seasons in England go, they don't come much better, and Ferguson was one of many that was left surprised by Michu's rise.

"I had never even heard of him before he came to Swansea. In fact, I think I am going to have a word with our scouting ­department!" the Red Devils icon told reporters at the time.

"Laudrup has tapped into the Spanish ­market a bit like Alan Pardew tapped into the French market for­ Newcastle, and in Michu he has got a very good player." 

Swansea signed Michu for just £2 million ($2.6m) in July 2012 but even that fee seemed like a gamble on a player who had managed just six goals across the 2010-11 season while playing in the Segunda Division. 

Though the 6ft-tall attacker showed plenty of promise the following campaign as he made the step up to La Liga, netting 15 times in Spain's top-flight, the decision to bring him to England seemed a risky one. 

For Michu, however, who began his career playing in his country's fourth-division with Oviedo, this was his chance to shine in a league he had long admired. 

Across the 2012-13 season he found career-best form when it mattered most - earning his one and only Spain cap in the process. 

"In a footballing sense, that was the best year I could have had. I scored 22 goals and lifted a cup at Wembley, then in the league we beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and I scored twice," Michu told  FourFourTwo in August. 

His form was so good in fact that reports began emerging that the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal were even circling. 

“I’m not sure I could have reached either Barcelona or Madrid’s level. But at Arsenal, after 22 goals for Swansea, I could have offered something," he added. 

Sadly, any hopes of becoming a Gunner or even continuing his fairytale with Swansea very quickly came undone with successive injuries spoiling his second season in the Premier League.

Looking for a fresh start, Michu secured a surprise loan move to Napoli in 2014, only for injuries to once again strike as he was limited to six appearances and no goals for the Italian club. 

Michu Napoli

In the blink of an eye, the striker had gone from hot property to discarded as Swansea let him leave the club permanently in November 2015. He then found himself back in Spain's fourth division, where his career had begun, all before the age of 30. 

His story would have a silver lining though as he signed for boyhood club Oviedo in 2016 for what would be his final season as a footballer. While the goals never flowed freely for Michu again, he managed to strike just once across 27 Segunda Division appearances, it at least gave him the chance to bid farewell the game that had all too briefly made his dreams come true. 

In his retirement message in 2017, Michu wrote with a heavy heart: “According to medical reports, the current situation of my right ankle has come to a point where it has forced me to say goodbye as a professional football player today. Even though I am saying farewell to you with so much sorrow, I know that we will always be united.

"I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the magical moments that you have given to me during all this time. I feel privileged to have fulfilled a dream that is shared by so many of us since childhood. The dream of becoming a professional player in this sport.

"Because of you, the public have given me an invaluable affection that I will never be able to repay. Indeed, I feel I have done nothing to deserve it all."

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While Michu was the proverbial candle that burned too brightly, his fleeting heroics in front of goal will never be forgotten by Swansea fans nor it seems by some of the game's brightest prospects. 

Borussia Dortmund prodigy Erling Haaland recently copied the Spaniard's iconic goal celebration after scoring for Norway, and has previously revealed that Michu, along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is one of his three favourite players.

A fitting indication of the big impact the cult hero managed to have in all too short period of time.