It had been a little up and down last month for Brian Laudrup. Despite suffering a heartbreaking loss in the UEFA Champions League against Real Madrid, the Dane also went 100% in the Bundesliga, pulling to within 7 points of Bayern Munich, and masterminded a brilliant 3-0 win over the Bavarians in the DFB-Pokal.
All of this and more was weighing on Brian Laudrup's mind as he stood on the training field, watching his players going at each other in 4v4 drills run by his assistant manager Zeljko Buvac. Ilkay Gundogan was always so damn good in these, he noted with a smile; the midfielder had just completed an ultra-tight one-two with Milos Jojic and nutmegged Kevin Volland before springing away.
"Hey, boss, can we talk?"
Startled, Brian swiveled quickly, and felt his heart sink to his knees as he saw Kevin Grosskreutz and Marco Reus standing behind him, both bearing grim countenances.
"What can I do for you lads?"
Kevin was the one that replied, his voice curt. "I hate to be blunt, but I've hardly played lately. I'm 26 now, I'm hitting the prime of my career, I need to be playing."
Brian was silent for a moment, incredulous that a player he believed to be so professional would complain like this, before replying. "I expected more professionalism out of you, Kevin. Frankly, players in front of you are doing a great job right now. Lukasz has been great at right back, and you can hardly expect to beat out Marco on the left wing."
This time Reus stepped forward at the mention of his name, firing back, "You know he can play more than that. Kevin's a great left back, too, better than Erik or Marcel."
"How's this your concern? Get back to training," the Dane snapped irritably, before turning back to Kevin. "You, too. Put your head down in training, work hard, and if you deserve to get games, you'll get games."
Laudrup turned away, satisfied his point had been made, only for Marco's voice to crack across like a whip one last time.
"The team will know about this. If you don't fix it, the media will know about this. I'm not at all happy, and with everyone else having jumped ship, fix your attitude toward your players or I will, too."
Brian paused mid-step, a riposte forming in his mouth, but stayed silent. He heard the two behind him jog back to training.
What the fuck have I done?