Michu’s Brief Window of Beautiful Finishing

‘One Season Wonders’: Part One

Today’s ‘One Season Wonder’ takes a look at the 2012/2013 Premier League season for then-Swansea player, Michu.

The ‘One Season Wonder’ is a common occurrence in modern soccer. A player, often a new signing, has an impact far exceeding any expectations at the start of the season, usually resulting in a cult hero status, not just at his club, but among almost all fans around the league. However, for one reason or another, they simply cannot replicate the form that saw them attain that cult hero status in any season after that one year of sheer magnificence that endears him to football fans around the globe.

With this new series of pieces, I intend to take a deep dive into the amazing seasons of some of the greatest ‘One Season Wonders’ of all time, trying to uncover why it all unravelled for each player. For some, injuries ruined their chances of making it at the top level long-term; for others, there were attitude issues; and for some it was just downright bad luck or just having one season that was a statistical anomaly compared to the rest of their careers.

This series doesn’t aim to criticise these players, but more act as a tribute to the players who stole our hearts with a single, unforgettable season of near-flawless performances which ensured we’d all remember them long after their time at the top was over. For me, there is only one place to start on our journey—on the south coast of Wales with a Spaniard who, by the end of his season in the Premier League, looked destined to be at the elite level of European football for years to come.

Michu celebrates for Swansea

Miguel Perez Cuesta, better known to football fans as Michu, signed for Swansea City on the 20th July 2012 from Rayo Vallecano for a transfer fee of £2 million. He arrived having had a good year in Spain, scoring fifteen times in thirty seven appearances, a good return considering he spent the majority of that season as an attacking midfielder. He was initially assumed to be the replacement for the departed Gylfi Sigurdsson in midfield, and on the opening day of the 2012/13 season new Swansea boss Michael Laudrup played Michu as a second striker, linking play between the midfield and striker Danny Graham, and his performance against Queens Park Rangers that day guaranteed he’d stay there.

Two goals and an assist in a 5-0 victory showed everyone what he was capable of. His ability to ghost into the box unmarked, along with his powerful running on the ball and lethal finishing, made him look like the complete striker. Over the course of the season he would score 18 Premier League goals in 35 games, averaging 0.51 goals per game, an excellent return from a man who was on fire all season long. As a striker, there looked to be nothing he wasn’t good at. He worked hard at pressing the opposition defences, his movement in the box was at an elite level and his finishing with that magical left foot and his powerful headers made him one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League.

Perhaps his most famous performance came whilst playing away at Arsenal in December 2012. With the game tied at 0-0, it looked to be heading for a draw between the two sides, but as the game entered its final three minutes, Michu did what he’d done all season to that point, and what he would continue to do on a number of occasions that season: he won the game with his breathtaking finishing.

The first goal remains my favourite of his eighteen goals that year. A one-two with Wayne Routledge sends the Spaniard in one-on-one with the goalkeeper, and it’s in this moment that Michu shows the type of composure that only a handful of strikers in world soccer possess. He realises he has enough time to work it onto his favoured left foot, so he curves his run to meet the ball with that medical left foot, and he powerfully curls the ball into the top corner, silencing the home support and sending the travelling Swansea City fans home delirious. They all knew they were on for an historic win in North London, but that would not be the end of the drama.

In the first minute of stoppage time, Nathan Dyer forced Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson back to the halfway line before sliding in to win the ball and sending the waiting Michu clean through on goal. He pushed the ball forward with an initial heavy touch, before taking two more touches to set himself up before effortlessly hammering the ball past Wojciech Szczęsny in the Arsenal goal. Swansea took home all three points that day, and Michu was starting to be recognised as one of the signings of the season. He would, of course, score in other big games against Manchester United and Chelsea, but nothing captured the minds of fans young and old alike like those two beautiful finishes against Arsenal.

He looked set to be one of the league’s best strikers for years to come, so the question is, what happened? From the start of his second season at Swansea, ankle issues plagued the striker. He had surgeries while at Swansea, Napoli and Langreo, but they didn’t help him. Neither did the pain-killing injections he was given. There was no specific incident that led to his problems, it is just attributed to wear and tear from his earlier years in the lower divisions of Spanish football. Michu himself thinks he played far too much football, as he said in an interview with The Athletic earlier this year.

On the 25th July 2017, Michu announced his retirement from professional football at the age of just 31, and just four years after the end of that stunning opening season at Swansea City. Injuries arguably robbed him of his best years, where he could have ended up at the elite level, playing European football every season, but it just wasn’t to be. However, for us fans who witnessed that single season of beautiful goals from a truly brilliant player, he is someone that will always be remembered fondly among those who recognised his class: Miguel Perez Cuesta, the man who gave the Premier League a season to remember.

Written by Gerard Mooney

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