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Eriksson says media intrusion damaged his career

Soccer coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, manager of Chinese Super League team Guangzhou R&F, smiles during a news conference promoting his memoirs
Soccer coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, manager of Chinese Super League team Guangzhou R&F, smiles during a news conference promoting his memoirs

By Philip O'Connor

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sven-Goran Eriksson believes media intrusion into his private life during his time as England manager damaged his chances of getting other big jobs, he said in an interview with Reuters.

Eriksson, now coaching Guangzhou in China, was England boss from 2001 to 2006, leading them to two World Cup quarter-finals and the same stage at the European Championship.

His face was familiar on both the front and back pages of British newspapers during his time in charge, however, as the media scrutinized his private life.

"There were a lot of articles about things other than football," said Eriksson, who is back in his native Sweden to publicize his memoir 'Sven: My Story'.

"I became a hot potato - a little too hot for many. But the same has happened to many other national team coaches.

"Before I got the (England) job I was seen as a great coach. Then after five-and-a-half years, the offers don't come. All of a sudden I had become a poor coach."

The 65-year-old sees the memoir as a chance to put the record straight.

"When I was in England, there were a lot of things said and written - mostly written - about my private life. Some of it was true, but an awful lot of it wasn't.

"So when I decided to write the book, I wanted to correct that part of it. It wouldn't have been good to write a book and not cover the things that were written about me in England."

Eriksson denied he had lost his touch as a coach during his time as England boss, and said: "One gets a little burned, especially in my case.

"They (the media) are always searching for something.

"(Former England manager and Eriksson's successor) Steve McClaren opened an umbrella and there was uproar. They always find something.

"I suppose (current England coach) Roy Hodgson has done OK, but they're always digging for something," he said grimly.

Eriksson's CV pre-England is filled with classic European clubs such as Benfica, AS Roma and Lazio, but since moving on he has found it hard to reach those heights.

He puts that down to a poor decision he made in 2008.

QUICKLY FORGOTTEN

"When I left Manchester City I had an offer from Benfica and from Mexico, and I chose Mexico. That was a mistake," he said.

"If you want to be on the big football stage, that is Europe. Benfica are not the biggest club in Europe, but they are a big club that always play in the Champions League or the Europa League. If you go to Mexico, you're quickly forgotten.

"There's nobody in Europe who knows. ‘Svennis went to Mexico, who are they playing against?' They don't know."

After leaving Mexico, Eriksson was involved in a short-lived project as director of football at Notts County before taking over as coach of the Ivory Coast and then at Leicester City.

That was followed by spells at Thai club BEC Tero and Al Nasr in Dubai before he arrived at Guangzhou.

"I've been in China for five months, and I've got to say - it's not the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A or La Liga, but it's growing and they're trying...

"The time when they bought old, almost has-been footballers, that time is over, I believe. They will spend money, but they want value for money."

His proudest achievement as a coach comes from early in his club career when he won the UEFA Cup, forerunner of the Europa League, in 1982 with IFK Gothenburg.

"That has to be it. They were the first Nordic team to win a title in Europe, and they're still the only Nordic team to do so," he said, before adding that it is a feat unlikely to be repeated by another Swedish team.

"No, there's no chance, and the reason is that all the players disappear. When the Bosman judgment came, teams from Holland and Germany could bring in as many foreign players as they like."

Eriksson is circumspect about the prospect of a return to European football, but says he would like to manage his home country in order to work with striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"I'm Swedish and proud to be Swedish," he said. "Of course I'd like to work with Zlatan, who wouldn't? He's one of the best forwards, one of the best players in the world. Sweden's best-ever."

Whether Sweden's best-ever player will get the chance to work with the country's best-known coach remains to be seen, but if it were to happen, it may provide Eriksson with an opportunity for redemption.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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