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Remembering Michu, one of the Premier League's greatest one-season wonders

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He was released on Monday, and his best season needs to be celebrated.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Monday, any chance Michu had at redemption with Swansea City was dashed, and his legacy as one of the Premier League's greatest ever one-season wonders was cemented. Swansea announced that Michu and the club had parted ways by mutual consent, making the Spaniard a free agent.

That Michu arrived for just £2 million ($3.2 million at 2012 exchange rate) after a season where he scored 15 goals in La Liga was just as much of an indictment of his skills set as it was of Rayo Vallecano's finances. The Madrid-based outfit badly needed to make money off transfer fees to pay top flight-standard wages, and they knew Michu was was likely to regress to the mean -- and that he wouldn't sign a new contract. They had to take the best offer they could get, and apparently, £2 million was it.

Incredibly, this 26-year-old who had scored just six goals in each of his two previous Segunda Division seasons did not regress to the mean, but got better. A lot of that had to do with being the perfect kind of player for the Premier League at the time.

More so than any of Europe's other big leagues, the Premier League has been a breeding ground for players like Michu -- the deep poacher. Over the last decade, England has been home to a number of attacking midfielder-second striker hybrids who clean up loose balls in the box off runs from deep, and for one season, Michu was the best of them.

Unfortunately, Michu didn't do much other than score. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard perfected the deep poacher position, but were also very complete attacking midfielders. Wayne Rooney was a deep-poaching hybrid player, too, but believe it or not, he was actually a very good center forward in his prime. Perhaps the best analogy to Michu is Kevin Nolan, who once scored 12 goals in the Premier League for Newcastle, and at least seven league goals on five other occasions. But because he brought very little else to Newcastle by 2011, he was deemed not up to top-half Premier League standards and sold to the Championship.

Nolan, to his credit, at least did some pressing. He didn't help at all in the way of ball retention or creativity, but at least he ran. Michu didn't really care to do that -- he combined all the standing around of Juan Roman Riquelme with the passing skillset of Rory Delap, and that was before he got hurt.

But those goals. Dang, those goals.

There were 22 of them in the 2012-13 season. He scored 18 in the league, one in the FA Cup and three as part of Swansea's League Cup win, including one in the final at Wembley Stadium.

He wasn't just a flat-track bully. He scored against Arsenal on multiple occasions, including a double at Emirates Stadium that caused Gunners fans to boo their own team mercilessly before the final whistle. He scored on them again in the FA Cup. He scored against Chelsea to knock them out of the League Cup. And he scored in both Premier League fixtures against Manchester United. He was so good for Swansea that he was capped by Spain during their spell as one of the greatest teams in the history of international football.

A move away from Swansea to a massive side looked likely. Arsenal were linked to a £25 million swoop for him. Liverpool reportedly inquired, but were told Swansea wouldn't take a penny less than £30m. Ultimately, everyone balked at the asking price, allowing Swansea to hold onto their superstar while adding striker Wilfried Bony, midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and more of the La Liga value signings they became famous for. A year after winning the League Cup and finishing ninth, the Swans were poised to push on and challenge the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Liverpool for a top-six spot.

The season started well for Michu, with five goals in his first 10 games in all competitions. He went five without scoring before getting back on the board against Kuban Krasnodar in Europa League. It could have sparked a revival, but he was injured immediately afterward, and required ankle surgery. October 24, 2013 was the date of Michu's last competitive goal.

While his 22-goal season was, to some degree, a fluke, he likely would have remained a thoroughly enjoyable and useful player if he never got injured. But he's never been the same since his first ankle surgery, and his very limited appearances while on loan to Napoli last season were just sad. Napoli blog The Siren's Song referred to him as "just plain bad." Here's a summary of Michu's Napoli career, in five Siren's Song headlines.


Hopefully, this is not the end for Michu. Robin van Persie came back from repeated ankle surgeries to put together two of the greatest Premier League seasons in history in his late 20s, after all, though he's an anomaly. Michu is already 29 and was never a van Persie-level talent. He was a late bloomer with one fantastic skill, and he probably won't get to use it at the highest level anymore.

It might be tempting to be sad for Michu and wonder what might have been, but here's an alternative idea. Instead of getting sad, just watch that video of all 22 of his goals in the 2012-13 season on repeat. Remember that one wonderful season when a £2 million signing from Rayo Vallecano came out of nowhere to become one of the biggest stars in world football.