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Barca attack picking up steam

Barcelona 7 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jan 15, 2006

Eriksson's agent responds to sting

Sven-Goran Eriksson's agent Athole Still insists the England boss will not need to repair relationships with his players following revelations in a Sunday newspaper and revealed the Swede is eager to extend his current deal to 2010.

Eriksson told an undercover News of the World reporter - posing as a rich Arab - he would quit as England coach if they win the World Cup this summer, and suggested he would be prepared to become manager of Aston Villa as part of a takeover bid.

The Swede also made indiscreet comments about his own players, just a few days after he stressed the importance of creating the right 'ambience' in the squad when took over from Kevin Keegan five years ago.

'He is lazy sometimes,' Eriksson said of Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand and then, referring to Ferdinand's United team-mate Wayne Rooney, he talked of the player having a 'temper' and 'coming from a poor family'.

Eriksson said David Beckham was 'a bit frustrated' at Real Madrid and offered to phone the England captain to persuade him to return to English football with Villa.

And Eriksson also made reference to England striker Michael Owen, who joined Newcastle in a £17million transfer from Real Madrid in August after a deal could not be struck with his former club Liverpool.

He added in the News of the World report: 'I talked to Michael Owen and said, 'You are happy?' He said, `Not really with the club, but economically I never earned that money in my life'. So they paid the salary more than Real Madrid did.

'He said: `They gave me a house, they gave me a car, it's incredible'. They had to do it because in any other way he wouldn't have gone there.'

Even though the World Cup finals in Germany are looming large Still insisted that Eriksson's comments about his players were 'not damaging'.

'They're the kind of things that would be said in conversations up and down the country in what you would think is a confidential manner,' Still told Sky Sports News.

'They are not damaging. He has not said that any player is not good or cannot be trusted.'

And Still revealed in a separate interview with BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek that Eriksson, whose current deal runs to 2008, recently urged him to sound out the Football Association about a possible contract extension to 2010.

'Sven said to me quite recently 'perhaps I've got used to this job despite the annoyances of it - perhaps you should have a word with Brian Barwick and see if the FA would be interested in me staying until 2010'.

'It depends entirely on what will happen in the World Cup. Is there any surprise in that? Do you need to be a genius to understand that?'

Still played down Eriksson suggesting Beckham would be willing to return to England to play his club football.

'I have no recollection whatsoever of Sven saying `he (Beckham) will come back tomorrow',' Still added. 'If he said something like that it was clearly a joke.'

The meeting with the undercover reporter was in Dubai after Eriksson was approached for a possible consultancy role in a football academy project.

Still told FA officials of the approach, adding: 'I wrote to Trevor Brooking saying we had an approach and we don't know much about it, we'd like to listen to what they're saying.

'(I said) But it's a consultancy, if it in any way encroaches on his contract with the FA then of course we will tell you.

'We got a reply from Brian Barwick saying `no problem, just keep us informed with what it is and if any decision Sven takes would impact on his contract then we would want to be the first to know'.

'So it was done properly and correctly from the beginning.'

Despite the revelations, Still insisted Eriksson is 'totally committed' to England's World Cup bid in Germany.

He added: 'Sven is totally committed to doing the very best for England at the World Cup and it would be a scandal and a disastrous if entrapment of this kind did anything to destabilise that situation.'

However, Still admitted he felt embarrassed by being fooled into believing the meeting in Dubai was genuine.

'It seemed completely innocuous,', Still added. 'It seemed to be just one of the many offers Sven gets to do this, that or the other, 99.9% he has nothing to do with.'