On May 15th in 2009, our former skipper Martin Laursen, was forced into early retirement. After suffering ongoing problems with his knees he decided to hang up his boots instead of going through further surgery.
The Danish international signed for Villa from AC Milan in 2004 for a fee of £3.4m. When you put that into perspective of what a fantastic defender he was, that is dirt cheap. He made 91 appearances in a claret and blue shirt but was restricted in the first few seasons at the club due to injury.
Laursen was a lion-heart defender and was massive alongside Olof Mellberg. The two defenders were real leaders on the pitch and helped Villa to a 6th place finish in 2007. He doubled his appearances that season, playing in every Premier League match. Due to his performances the Dane picked up the Villa supporters player of the year award as well as picking up six goals on the way.
After the departure of Mellberg, Laursen had to stand up and become the main leader at the heart of defence and he did exactly that. He was named captain at the start of the season, by then manager Martin O’Neill. One of the main highlights from that season was beating Ajax 2-1 at home in the UEFA CUP and Laursen was the first man on the score-sheet, scoring a powerful header from an Ashley Young corner.
His last game in a Villa shirt came later that season in a 2-1 victory over West Brom. The Danish international picked up an injury earlier on in the season, he then came back after two weeks to face the Baggies but unfortunately he felt a reaction after the mini derby clash which eventually forced him into retirement.
I wasn’t around to watch Paul McGrath so for me Martin Laursen is the best centre back that has played for Villa in my lifetime. He was powerful in the air, be that defending or attacking. A leader on and off the pitch and was never scared to put his head where it hurts. What we would do to have someone like Laursen at the heart of the defence right now.