Former England and Manchester City boss Sven Goran Eriksson is set to be named as the new Coach of the Ivory Coast, six weeks after leaving Notts County. The position with the Elephants will be the Swede’s third crack at international management, having previously led Mexico with little success.
Since entering the gaze of English football in 2001, Eriksson has polarised opinion. On one hand, some felt the calm and unruffled approach he brought to the game was a breath of fresh air on these shores, far removed from the stereotypical teacup-throwing manager who has blighted England’s progression, bringing tactical nous with him from Italy – the country of his greatest successes. Conversely, there were many who regarded Eriksson’s quiet demeanour as lacking in passion, rendering him unable to motivate England’s talented but underachieving players at two World Cups and a European Championship. Each time, in 2002, 2004 and 2006, the Three Lions were eliminated at the quarter-final stage when, on paper at least, they should have gone further.
Eriksson’s reputation in England was damaged greatly by a number of scandals he found himself at the centre of. There were romantic dalliances with fellow Swede and TV personality Ulrika Jonsson and FA secretary Faria Alam – who was also involved with the now-former FA chief executive Mark Palios, the man who was effectively Eriksson’s boss. He was also involved in episodes of seeming disloyalty to the England cause, both when Eriksson was seen leaving former Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon’s home and Roman Abramovich’s yacht, and when he was recorded saying he would leave the England job after the World Cup to manage Aston Villa, after being duped by the News of the World in the infamous ‘fake Sheikh’ sting and given the impression the Midlands club were to be bought by the fictional Arab millionaire.
After departing the England post following the 2006 World Cup, Eriksson spent a year out of football, re-emerging at Manchester City following their takeover by Thaksin Shinawatra. Given licence to spend, Eriksson did just that, quickly assembling an expensive team including Brazilian midfielder Elano, Croatian defender Vedran Corluka and Italian striker Rolando Bianchi, with mixed success. Bianchi in particular was a disappointment. Signed for nearly £9m, the former Reggina player never adapted to English football and, despite an opening-day goal, only netted three more times at Eastlands before returning to the boot-shaped peninsula in January 2008. On the field, Eriksson guided City to a double over Manchester United and a ninth-placed finish at the end of the season, despite a final-day hammering away to Middlesbrough, who triumphed 8-1 in Eriksson’s final game in charge of the Blues. He left by mutual consent a month later.
Mexico came calling almost immediately, with the announcement of Eriksson’s appointment coming just a day after he left City. The 62-year-old’s time in Central America was a grave disappointment, with a series of poor results leaving World Cup qualification in doubt. Mexico eventually reached South Africa 2010, but without Eriksson at the helm – he was replaced by Javier Aguirre in April 2009. A few months later, Eriksson landed at Notts County for perhaps the most bizarre spell of his long career. Named director of football, Eriksson was central to the takeover by the mysterious Munto Finance group, reportedly earning £2m a year, albeit based on any future success of the club as well as a large shareholding in the East Midlands outfit. Soon, however, the true state of County unravelled, leaving the oldest professional club in the world on the verge of going out of business.
Throughout the most farcical period in County’s history, Eriksson was front and centre as the early optimism gave way to much hand-wringing and genuine fear for the Magpies’ future. It quickly became apparent the owners of County could not back up their big talk with big money, and Eriksson left Meadow Lane following the purchase of the club by Ray Trew, in the process waiving a substantial fee – believed to be over £2m. Trew described Sven as “an absolute gentleman” while Eriksson added he left County because it was simply the right thing to do. The much-travelled former Benfica manager is now preparing to take the Ivory Coast to the World Cup, and as one of Africa’s most talented teams, expectations are high. Unlike with England, a quarter-final place for Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and company would be a sterling achievement.