Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about Sven-Goran’s Eriksson’s appointment as manager of Leicester City is that it is in no way surprising. Nothing now surprises us about Sven.
Less than 10 years ago, Eriksson was appointed manager of England. He was seen as the saviour; seen as the answer to the mediocrity of a national team ongoing since Euro 96. Since then he has flirted between success and comedy, with flirting being the operative word.
Before media circus, Sven managed at the highest level of domestic football with great success. He won the UEFA Cup in 1982 and was runner-up in 1983 and 1998. He reached the final of the European Cup in 1990 and won seven national cups. He has won five national titles, a Cup Winners’ Cup and a Super Cup. He has won 17 trophies. Leicester have only ever won 11.
It is a glamour appointment for Leicester, but possibly a glorious last roll of the dice from Milan Mandaric, the Foxes chairman. The Serb may well be moving aside when the expected Thai takeover of the club goes ahead, but he has to be congratulated for this coup.
So why, with such an enviable domestic record, has the Swede chosen to take control of Leicester City – third-bottom of the Championship?
Let’s give Sven the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this is a chance for him to put some of his recent mistakes behind him. Maybe he wants to get back to the bread and butter, day-in-day-out of being a club football manager. If he manages to succeed at the Walkers Stadium, then he can be taken seriously again as a motivator and tactician after recent forays into international management.
He also has apparently taken to the East Midlands, and continues to own a luxury apartment on the banks of the River Trent in Nottingham. Clearly this job makes sense to Sven in a geographical sense.
The problem is that Eriksson has almost moulded himself into a comedy figure, partly through his own fault and partly through the fault of others. His England tenure was soured by allegations of affairs and he has failed in his last two managerial jobs with Ivory Coast and Mexico.
His last domestic appointment was as director of football at Notts County, where he became the ‘face of the farce’ as the club were seemingly duped by Munto Finance, an Asian investor that used the word ‘Finance’ in their name quite wrongly.
Moreover, there is a feeling that Sven almost courts the media bandwagon that he receives. Even if he is intending to get back to basics at Leicester City, both club and fans will be more than aware that Leicester are suddenly going to be front and back page news. The way in which Craig Bellamy invites Sky Sports cameras whenever he plays for Cardiff will be multiplied tenfold by the ‘Sven effect’.
But the crux of this story is slightly darker. Forgetting Sven’s idea of recreating The Good Life, this is actually a crossroads for the Swede. It is one thing to fail in the England job and be redeemed, as Steve McClaren has shown. And it is one thing to fail in the Manchester City job (fail might be a bit harsh. Ed.) and be redeemed, and Mark Hughes is a portrayal of this.
It is very much another thing for Sven to fail at Leicester City. Leave a high profile job and a manager can hope to be given a second chance. Fail at Leicester, and Sven may have terminally damaged a career that once promised true glory.
Just a decade ago, Sven-Goran Eriksson was spoke of in the same bracket as Marcelo Lippi, Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. A lack of success at Leicester City would liken him to Martin Allen, Rob Kelly and Micky Adams. That’s a hell of a way to fall.