Blog: How filmstar Laursen beat anxiety to become Villa hero
18th Dec 2012
Boss Carlo Ancelotti is about to make his third - and final - substitution.
He looks up to see if it's him coming on. It's not. It's Massimo Ambrosini who enters the action for Rui Costa.
His chances of playing in the showpiece final are over.
How are you feeling? Gutted? Disappointed? Frustrated?
No. Relieved. Delighted. Happy.
Little did anyone know at the time but man-mountain Laursen was literally quaking in his boots as he surveyed the scene in front of 63,000 people looking in on the action.
"I was scared. I didn't feel good enough to play. It was a difficult time there. Ancelotti didn't rate me. He preferred everyone before me. That was hard for me to accept and understand.
"Playing the Champions League final was a massive moment with millions watching. But I was afraid to come on and make a big mistake. I had some bad thoughts then. It wasn't a nice time.
"Only when we made the third substitution did I feel really happy. I could finally relax. I wasn't coming on and I was delighted about that!"
It's fair to say that Laursen wondered if he'd ever be content within the football world again but thankfully salvation did arrive - even if he did have to wait a while.
Laursen continued to doubt his own ability as Milan charged to the 2004 Serie A title, with Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini preferred at centre-back for the majority of the campaign.
But then came his dream move to the Barclays Premier League, a division his close associates said suited his game perfectly.
But, as everyone knows, a succession of injuries hampered his progress in claret and blue.
Can you imagine suffering from anxiety, overcoming it and then fulfilling a lifelong ambition of moving to England to play in the best league in the world - and then failing time and again to make your mark?
It doesn't bear thinking about and lesser men would have crumbled.
But he never gave up - he showed immense amounts of inner strength to work his way back into contention to become a club icon that fans still talk admiringly about today.
"The start at Villa was tough because I was injured all the time. But I don't really think about that really when I look back. The great memories override the bad ones.
"When I say I had the best years of my career at Villa, I really mean it. The last two or three years at Villa were just amazing. It was just a dream.
"I felt great physically. I started to play well on matchdays. It was absolutely terrific."
This strength of character required to come roaring back is a measure of the man and something that's explored in depth in a new movie about the cult hero's career.
'Me, Myself and Martin Laursen' is a football film by Anthony Tullberg charting the career of the "Great Dane".
Tullberg experienced a very brief career, which - according to himself - should have been much more successful than it actually was. He never made it, simply put.
To his annoyance, Tullberg witnessed Laursen playing week after week in the world's top divisions.
But why was the outcome so different? That's the big question which Tullberg - in a very straight-forward manner - looks to get answered.
Tullberg finds out about Laursen's strengths, with Michael Laudrup, Paolo Maldini, Morten Olsen, Martin Jorgensen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andriy Shevchenko and Andrea Pirlo all contributing.
What comes across is that Laursen had terrific talent but more importantly, drive, desire and determination to succeed as a footballer. It gave him an edge.
That's what helped him gather his thoughts and push on after his Champions League breakdown and also helped him conquer his wide-ranging injury problems early in his time at Villa.
"Anthony contacted me in 2005 about doing a positive football movie. That's why I wanted to be part of it because I knew it would be something good.
"He told me I didn't have a huge talent. He told me my technique wasn't the best. He thought I was simply ambitious and wanted it more than anyone else.
"I think I did have talent but I am proud of the way I used it.
"You have to have talent to play for Villa and AC Milan, of course. You need some flair but I think 30 years ago it was perhaps 80% talent and 20% hunger. Now it's the opposite.
"If you don't want it and you're not willing to work your socks off and sacrifice things then you can't become a professional footballer.
"There are so many things around you now. You can't just be a guy with a big talent. You need to work hard. I think you need to sacrifice a lot, more than 30 years ago.
"But for me it was never difficult to concentrate on just playing football.
"There were a lot of opportunities, though, let's be honest. When you're a footballer you can buy all that you want, you have nice cars and nice girls wanting you because it's interesting to be around a footballer.
"But, for me, it was all about football. I concentrated on that. It was my hobby and in the end it was amazing to see my hobby become my job.
"I took it very seriously. When I was at Verona I wanted to join a bigger team. That was my ambition. Then I went to AC Milan and I wanted to become a regular there.
"Then I went to Villa and I wanted to play well and show I could play in the Premier League. I think I succeeded.
"My time at Villa was so, so special. I will never forget it."
Neither will the fans who saw you play Martin!
And, thanks to this new film, it will be catalogued in a distinct and diverse way for all time.
paul brown, blogs,
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