The rise and fall of Sven-Goran Eriksson
Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed boss of Chinese outfit Guangzhou R&F on Tuesday. Yes, that is the same coach who was paid millions to become the first foreign manager of England, and who had much success across Europe prior to his Three Lions appointment.
If you have had your head buried in the sand for the past seven years, you would be forgiven for thinking just what exactly a man with such a distinguished CV is doing at a club sitting just two spots off the Chinese Super League's relegation zone.
In reality, however, this one-time A-list manager has slipped down into the lower echelons of the game's coaches-for-hire list. Moreover, due to both a poor track record in the latter half of his career, combined with some strange and often bewildering decisions, Sven has assumed the position of the butt of many of football's jokes.
Forced to retire as a footballer at 27 in 1975, Eriksson landed his first managerial role two years later, taking charge of Degerfors IF. He showed his potential from the off, gaining promotion to Sweden's Division Two within just a year, before earning himself a move to IFK Goteborg in 1979. It was there he first truly made a name for himself, winning the Swedish Cup in his maiden season before wrapping up a treble of Swedish league, cup and UEFA Cup in 1982.
Eriksson's stunning managerial rise in Sweden, inside just five years, led to a switch to Benfica. Remarkably, he nearly achieved the same treble feat as at Goteborg that season, winning the Portuguese Liga and cup, only to lose out in the UEFA Cup final. Another Liga title in 1984 confirmed his managerial pedigree on the European stage, and that summer Roma came calling.
The Swede picked up a Coppa Italia at the Giallorossi in 1986, before a trophyless stint at Fiorentina was followed by a return to Benfica, which brought with it a European Cup runners-up medal in 1990 and another Liga title in 1991.
Eriksson then headed back to Italy, this time taking the reins of Sampdoria, claiming another Coppa Italia in 1994, before moving on in 1997 to the side where he would become most successful, Lazio.
By the time England came knocking in 2001, Eriksson had added a Serie A title, two more Coppa Italias, two Italian Supercoppas, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Super Cup to his name - albeit aided by the significant millions of club president Sergio Cragnotti. Nonetheless, such a back catalogue of trophies made him the Football Association's first choice. What Eriksson did not know at the time, was that they would be his last taste of silverware.
If now-everyone's-favourite Swede were to have retired at this point, he would be remembered as a successful manager who picked up winners medals everywhere he turned. While his spell as England boss would go on to be a respectable one, it was the manner in which he carried out his business and how he started to accept mediocrity that set the tone for the rest of his career.
Under Eriksson over the next five years, England became more than competent but yet never exceeded expectations, with three consecutive quarter-final finishes at the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup.
From a side that produced one of the nation's finest hours, beating Germany 5-1 in 2001, to a team that, despite exiting the World Cup 2006 quarter-final to Portugal on penalties with ten men, had struggled past the likes of Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and Ecuador en route; and with the so-called 'Golden Generation'. Little progress was made.
The ironic thing is, many England fans would probably settle for Sven's safe hands right now, with Roy Hodgson's team facing a tough task to book their place at next year's World Cup. The Swede never had a problem with that side of things, winning 19, drawing four and losing just one - to Northern Ireland - of his 24 qualifiers at the Three Lions helm.
Eriksson lost much respect from people for his off-field antics, which would go a long way to laying the foundations for the almost-comical character we see before us today. Whether it was his affair with TV presenter and compatriot Ulrika Jonsson, his fling with FA employee Faria Alam or his infamous 'Fake Sheikh' dealings, he often made the headlines for the wrong reasons. Something that seems unimaginable with the dignified Hodgson.
Eriksson was effectively asked to step aside from the England job in 2006 due to the Sheikh saga, setting the wheels in motion for the rest of his career, and ultimately proving to be something he would never recover from.
In 2007, no-longer-everyone's-favourite Swede took charge of Manchester City: a club in transition and on their way to winning the Premier League title five years later. Backed by the millions of former prime minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra, Eriksson brought in a number of exciting players, such as Elano and Martin Petrov. Sadly, in a sign of things to come, he was gone the following summer, despite having qualified for the UEFA Cup through the Fair Play League, achieved the club's joint-highest Premier League points total and become the first City manager to have won both league derby games against Manchester United since 1970. A ninth-place finish was ultimately not enough for Shinawatra, who told Eriksson he was "not the right man for the job".
After the stresses of managing a club like City and following the orders of such a demanding boss as Shinawatra, Eriksson decided to return to the international fold in 2008 with Mexico. Just the odd few matches every couple of months, and only expected to qualify for the upcoming World Cup - which he could do with his eyes closed, remember. What could possibly go wrong? Most things, is the answer. The Swede was sacked just ten months into the job, following a run of one win from seven competitive matches, leaving the nation in grave danger of missing out on qualification.
You are reading that correctly. Just three years after having been manager of England, Eriksson was now trying out a director of football role at League Two outfit Notts County. A Middle Eastern consortium took over the club with a five-year plan to take County into the Premier League. Along with the Swede, a number of new signings arrived, including Sol Campbell and Kasper Schmeichel. Unfortunately, the new backers soon pulled out, and by February 2010, seven months after his arrival, Eriksson too had grown tired of the experiment. He did at least outlast Campbell, who decided to jump ship the previous September, one month in.
After the disaster that was the director of football role at Notts County, Eriksson decided he was probably best off becoming a national team manager once again. With Ivory Coast already qualified for the World Cup 2010, he did not have to worry about a Mexico-style situation. It was feet-up time, and the quarter-finals would surely soon appear from around the corner. The Elephants, however, failed to make it past the group stage, although they did have to face Brazil and Portugal. Still, the Swede was reportedly paid £270,000 for three months' work.
In August 2010, more Thai millions came calling: this time in the shape of a new consortium at Leicester City. Eriksson managed to guide a club bottom of the Championship to a tenth-place finish. Perhaps things were starting to look up for the luckless coach? However, following a summer of heavy investment that saw the arrivals of the likes of David Nugent and Schmeichel (again), a return of just five wins from the opening 13 games of the new season was enough to ensure the old 'left by mutual consent' would appear once again on the Swede's CV.
BEC Tero Sasana, Al Nasr
From 2012 onwards, perhaps knowing that his reputation in Europe and beyond had been more than tarnished, Sven decided to up sticks to Asia, where he has been ever since.
Having tried out life as a director of football, the technical director role was next on his list, at Thailand's BEC Tero Sasana. A new continent and a chance to start afresh, surely stability was now at the forefront of his mind. Four months later, he had moved to United Arab Emirates side Al Nasr. He had decided to stay loyal to the technical director role, in fairness.
After just four months in Dubai, yep you guessed it, Eriksson announced his switch to China.
"I've been at the club for four-and-a-half months and I have done what I was supposed to do," he said, confirming he has a shorter life span per club than Jose Mourinho.
As a final parting shot, it would be too easy to lament the sad decline of Sven's career; to compare trophies won pre and post 2001. Instead, outgoing Leeds chairman Ken Bates can have the last word on Eriksson, who, remember, was heavily linked with both the Manchester United and Chelsea jobs while England boss.
"We have had Sven-Goran Eriksson apply, but he won't be coming."