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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 16, 2006

Sven clears air after 'fake sheikh' sting

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson claims he has 'no problem' with his star players and insists he has not embarrassed them.

The Swede told an undercover reporter - posing as a rich Arab - that 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 hypothetical takeover.

In addition, Eriksson made indiscreet comments about Michael Owen, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney.

But the Football Association have already confirmed their support for Eriksson and he claims his players have done the same.

'I do not feel I have embarrassed the players,' said Eriksson, who was at a Football Writers' Association dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London last night.

'I have spoken to almost all of them ... Beckham, Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Owen.

'I did not contact Shaun-Wright Phillips because he was playing at Sunderland but I will do so.

'It would have been better without the article, of course, but having spoken to them about it there is no problem.'

It remains to be seen what effect the revelations will have on his players ahead of this summer's World Cup finals in Germany.

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

Eriksson said skipper Beckham was 'a bit frustrated' at Real Madrid and that he would be able to phone the England captain to persuade him to return to English football with Villa.

And Eriksson also made reference to 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.

Eriksson added in the News of the World report: 'I talked to Michael Owen and said, `You are happy?' He (Owen) 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 (Owen) 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.'

But Eriksson does not believe his comments will cause a problem for Owen.

He said last night: 'I do not think Michael Owen will have a problem with the Newcastle fans.'

Newcastle last night denied Owen was unhappy at St James' Park, despite Eriksson's comments.

Chairman Freddy Shepherd said: 'We have spoken with the player and he has confirmed he is happy at Newcastle United.'

Earlier, Eriksson told the FA's official website: 'I would like to assure everyone, especially the fans, that I am 100 per cent committed to the England job. I have told The FA this and I value the great support I have received from them.'

'I have spoken with the players concerned and I have been very pleased with their reaction and am confident my relationship with them has not been damaged in any way.'