Sven-Goran Eriksson misleading his employers yet again??
Sven-Goran Eriksson is yet again the subject of newspaper revelations regarding lucrative secret dealings. This time, additional to previously where he was involved in talks to join Manchester United and Chelsea behind the backs of the FA, Eriksson is said to have joined his agent, Athole Still and a lawyer in company with a sheikh to discuss a possibility of coaching a football academy in the United Arab Emirates captial of Dubai. While wining and dining, talk arose of buying a football club in England, and Mr Still revealed Aston Villa Football Club was under takeover talks and £25m would entertain a controlling interest. Eriksson then spoke of the possibility of such a circumstance where the sheikh would have control over Villa Park and install Eriksson as manager (which would mean David O'Leary being dismissed, regardless of whether Villa were riding high under his management or not at the time).
Eriksson explained his current salary deal with the FA and to be manager of Villa would mean a bigger salary of £5m per year for 3yrs to equal that of Chelsea's Jose Mourinho. The mention of Doug Ellis is said to be on the lines where Eriksson and his agent described the Villa chairman as old and sick, therefore should be stepping down with little fuss. Eriksson spoke of leaving the England job if he went on to win the World Cup and said he could talk David Beckham into leaving Real Madrid to come to Villa, impressing the England captain of the attractions of the Midlands.
So in a nutshell, Still is contacted by an unknown party to discuss a deal for Eriksson to teach football at an academy in Dubai. Eriksson and Still are joined by lawyer Richard Des Voeux to discuss with a sheikh this possibility. Talks turn to purchasing an English football club, Aston Villa is suggested, Eriksson speaks of being manager at the club for a £15m contract, with David Beckham leaving Spain for Birmingham. Eriksson can get out of his current contract with the FA if need be and be available to take over at Villa Park, no problems there. After the World Cup, Eriksson says he will leave the managerial post if England win the trophy.
The 'sheikh' turned out to be an undercover journalist with the 'News of the World' Sunday newspaper, affiliated with 'The Sun' daily newspaper. Perhaps both are known more for notorious sensationalism reporting but rarely shown to be wrong. I said 'rarely'.
I personally feel that after the World Cup, it would be irrelevant how England do, Eriksson would leave with the enticement of a £15m Aston Villa contract like a cushion to comfort his departure, being on more than his current salary. So were this sheikh to suddenly enter a £25m bid for Villa Park, that would signal to the Swede the beginning of his end as national coach. Would his preparations then be distracted, would he be less enchanted with England's progress knowing win, lose or draw, he would be leaving whatever mess or triumph behind to venutre elsewhere? Does he have a more ulterior motive in his links with Beckham, which would add to the 'favouritism' he has been accused of in not dropping certain first-team selections when England were not producing better football? Does Beckham have an ulterior motive in his links with the coach, which would ensure the unlikelihood of being dropped if or when Beckham's performance is questioned or even poor?
Eriksson also revealed to the 'sheikh' conversations he had with a number of England players, where he described one player as "lazy", another as having a bad upbringing and a third as not being worth is transfer fee. Michael Owen was said to have been mentioned by Eriksson as being unhappy at Newcastle and being there only for financial reasons. Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd stated he had spoken to Owen and Owen stated he was happy.
Yet, does this now undermine Eriksson's relationship with the players in question as well as the other England players? They cannot discuss anything with him for fear of it being repeated to dinner guests as a source of amusement? But all of this appears to be immaterial to the FA. They won't be sacking Eriksson so close to the World Cup, and I don't think it would be ideal unless his position was rendered untenable because it unsettled the players. Beckham is his good confidante and if he is OK with Eriksson, the others will follow. Most, I believe, are content with playing for England and what appears in the papers regarding Eriksson is Eriksson's business, and that of the FA. The FA have stated they are behind Eriksson and give him their full support. Still stated the conversations as hypothetical and sheer fantasy and regarded the set-up by the News of The World reporters as "disgraceful entrapment". He has revealed Eriksson had actually asked if his contract with the FA could be extended.
The News of the World investigations maybe viewed as ill-timed but the paper had stated rumours were in the pipeline that Eriksson and Still were looking out for lucrative deals, which attracted the reporters to the idea of an operation to see how far these rumours could be proved. Still entertained the contact made to him from the 'sheikh'. They met the 'sheikh' and discuss matters in relation to a new deal. The thing with accusations of entrapment is that those caught are not persuaded to take part or forced to be involved, they become involved at their own accord. Police operations have caught numerous suspects in entrapment scenarios as the safest way of enticing them out of hiding. Furthermore, if you do not have the intention initially, why entertain the idea in the first place?
The case is proven for me, neither Eriksson nor Still or even Eriksson's lawyer have denied these conversations took place. But in revealing the conversations, the newspaper has done little to hamper Eriksson's position, I don't think anything will where the FA are concerned. I'll be interested to see if Eriksson's position is extended because while there are good candidates for the position, the FA have their own preferential list, and, to quote Peter Kenyon, it is from "a small group of one". And when you add the FA investigation into Luton Town manager Mike Newell's accusation of 'transfer bungs' being prolific in the English game, I know which subject takes priority.