For Sven, it's always been like this with the ladies. The stories and the names which just keep tumbling out in his new autobiography – Faria Alam, Ulrika Jonsson, Graziella Mancinelli, Debora Caprioglio, a "really nice Swedish woman called Malin who worked at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm" and more – form part of a compulsion which was never more evident than when he turned up to manage Manchester City in 2007.
Throughout his one season at that club, Eriksson paid out of his own pocket to live at the 14th floor Valentino Suite at the Radisson Edwardian in central Manchester – at £1,500 a night – simply because it meant he could entertain his amours without the paparazzi knowing. The Daily Star once thought they had caught him in flagrante and published photographs of him dancing there with a woman half his age. To the paper's horror, she turned out to be his daughter.
Eriksson's simplistic outlook on life tells him – not unreasonably – that for a single man there is nothing wrong with all this. He once told me that his bedtime reading in the Valentino Suite was a biography of Mao Tse-tung. "It's that thick," he said, gesturing, though it was not easy to imagine him sitting there alone, wading through it into the wee small hours.
His simple thoughts about pretty much everything have helped him gravitate seamlessly from one woman to another. In fact, nothing seems to cause him alarm or agitation. I shall always recall phoning him minutes after he had been sacked by Leicester City in October 2011 – a development which put paid to our ghost-written column for The Independent.
"Hellooo..." he answered, the same as always. "I'm sorry," I said. "Tell me about it," he replied. He is charming and disarming. Just ask Manchester City's staff. They adored him for those nine months before he was unjustly sacked by their Thai owner, Thaksin Shinawatra.
The problem is that women are not the only attraction. Eriksson has a seemingly insatiable appetite for money and it is that which has proved his undoing. He was very unhappy about Thaksin's decision to sack him, after a season in which he had done a decent job – taking City to their highest points total (55) and a ninth-placed finish – yet was then willing to work for Thai owners at Leicester, where history quickly repeated itself.
He told me they had convinced him that they were "different" but he did not look at the evidence terribly hard. He went to Leicester for the money, just as he has leapt at other jobs which, frankly, have been beneath a manager of his stock, since he was prematurely forced out of Manchester.
There have been seven jobs in five years and the most ridiculous was Notts County – where he was lured by Munto Finance, who claimed to be backed by Middle East multimillions, negotiating for North Korean mineral rights and the BMW Sauber Formula One team. They were not.
Eriksson is far better than that. We are talking about a manager of huge achievements – once sought by Manchester United as a successor to Sir Alex Ferguson, and whose arrival to manage England in 2001 was a huge coup for the Football Association. As the years roll on, the size of his achievement for the national team looks better and better and, at the age of 65, Eriksson should be commanding the most sought-after international roles in football. Fabio Capello, who is two years his senior, has been at the helm of the Russia national side since leaving England behind. Instead, Eriksson has followed the money and made himself into something of a joke. The book is the latest instalment in that process.
Eriksson's compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic has just shown that there is a way of producing an honest, best-selling football life story which does not require a long list of romantic conquests. I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic – which was ghost-written by the journalist and novelist David Lagercrant – surpasses any other of its kind in modern times.
News that Eriksson's tome was on the horizon had promised much, too. His relationship with Swedish journalists like Sven Lovgren, his own "ghost", has always been on a higher plane than his polite form of engagement with British writers. And ever since a change of agent led him to end his initial cooperation with the respected Joe Lovejoy on the fine 2002 book, Sven, it has seemed that there would be a lot to say, one day.
Eriksson has certainly beaten his old adversary Ferguson hands down for autobiographical headlines and – as always – there will be some rapid financial gain for him in that. Which is good news for him because located under the image of Ms Alam in Monday's Daily Mail was Eriksson's story of how he has allegedly just lost £10m through the actions of a former financial adviser.
It's been a life of football, chasing women and chasing money for him. Such a disappointment that the former should have been so desperately obscured in the process.
- More about:
- Nonfiction Literature