Memorable rise

In the whirlwind 51 months since being on football’s scrapheap, Michu has scored 43 goals, including 16 in Spain’s La Liga and 20 in the English Premier League, and been named in the Spanish squad for a vital World Cup 2014 qualifier with Belarus, writes Pete Evans.

As Miguel Perez Cuesta, better known as Michu, searched for a new club in the summer of 2011 there was little interest.

Out of contract and out of options after just 14 goals in 101 games for Celta Vigo, he could never have dreamt that just two years later he would be lining up for his country.

In the whirlwind 51 months since being on football’s scrapheap, Michu has scored 43 goals, including 16 in Spain’s La Liga and 20 in the English Premier League, and been named in the Spanish squad for a vital World Cup 2014 qualifier with Belarus.

His shock call-up meant the La Roja fan, who celebrated wildly at home with his family when Andres Iniesta clinched the World Cup back in 2010, would be training alongside the Barcelona playmaker and his world-class colleagues as they waited to see who would get the nod in Mallorca.

“I cannot put into words the joy I felt when the gaffer gave his team talk and I saw I was playing,” Michu told Marca after another high in a memorable week.

That gaffer, Vicente Del Bosque, started the new addition to his squad in their crucial 2-1 win in Mallorca after publicly admitting he was sorry he overlooked Michu for so long.

“That’s why I would advise any kid playing football to never give up on his dreams and that life in this sport can change overnight,” Michu added.

“Nobody wanted me back in the summer of 2011.”

Even the most ardent of football fans will admit they knew very little about Michu when Swansea splashed out GBP2 million to take the forward to South Wales from La Liga side Rayo Vallecano in July 2012. The forward had found goal-scoring easy during his sole season with unfashionable Vallecano but few could have predicted that 12 months later he would be labelled as one of the best bargains in Premier League history.

The signs were there as early as eight minutes into his Swansea debut when he opened his account in a thumping 5-0 win at QPR. Another six goals followed by the end of October as he became an instant cult hero. With a number of Spanish players in the Swansea squad it would have been easy for Michu to form a clique and stick to his native tongue but he was determined to learn English — and quickly.

He spent two to three hours, three nights a week, with a personal tutor. When not being tutored he was reading newspapers, watching television and talking to as many people as possible — believing he would continue to improve as a player as his vocabulary grew.

While his first season in Wales was an undoubted personal success on and off the pitch, he also helped the Swans earn their first ever major trophy as they won the League Cup.

His opening goal at Stamford Bridge helped Swansea overcome Chelsea over a two-legged semifinal and he notched again in the 5-0 final victory over Bradford, his 19th goal of a stellar campaign.

That Wembley win meant Michu is showcasing his talent in the Europa League this season. And just as he hit the ground running in the Premier League, the goals have continued to flow on Thursday nights with strikes against Malmo, Petrolul Ploiesti and in their historic 3-0 victory in Valencia.

It was perhaps no surprise on the back of his goal-scoring display in La Mestalla that the national coach began to pay close attention to the 27-year-old, who signed a new contact at the Liberty Stadium in January, but could he really be playing at the World Cup next summer, just three years after being unemployed?

He faces stern competition for a place on the plane from the likes of Atletico Madrid’s David Villa and the EPL trio of Roberto Soldado, Fernando Torres and Alvaro Negredo. The manager who knows Michu best knows it will not be easy but is backing him to write another chapter in the story of his memorable rise next summer.

“For the final three or four places it will depend,” Swansea boss Michael Laudrup said. “Is it Roberto Soldado, Alvaro Negredo, Michu, Fernando Torres or David Villa? Will they take two of the five or three of the five?

“He can make the World Cup squad, he has already proved it.”

He is not yet married but has been with girlfriend Paloma since the age of 16.

FACTFILE Name: Michu Position: Striker Club: Swansea DOB: 26/03/1986 International appearances: 1 International goals: 0

Moment to remember: Making his international debut for Spain against Belarus at the age of 27 in October 2013.

Moment to forget: Was told he would be selected for Spain’s friendly against Uruguay in February but was then overlooked and had to wait another eight months for his international debut.

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