Sven Goran Eriksson yesterday added to the sense of astonishment surrounding the dislike which some of Manchester's best-paid players have expressed for the city, suggesting that footballers on six-figure weekly salaries are "there to work, not for holidays".
Manchester City's strikers Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli have both expressed their unhappiness with Manchester this summer and the view of Eriksson – who took up residence in the central Radisson Edwardian Hotel, a short walk from Balotelli's Deansgate apartment, during his 10 months as City manager – bore out those expressed by Eric Cantona 24 hours before him.
"Well, maybe I'm old now but I find it very difficult to understand that," Eriksson said. "I lived in so many places but I was always happy. There's more sunshine in Rome than in Manchester but there's nothing wrong with Manchester. Yes, it rains a lot but there you go. You are there to work, not for holidays. No, no, no I don't understand that."
Balotelli appeared to be in more trouble last night after images from City's training ground suggested he had had another altercation yesterday, this time with Aleksandar Kolarov, the player he considers his second-closest friend at City, after Patrick Vieira. After some finger-jabbing gestures, the players were calmed down.
Eriksson is gathering a cohort of his former Manchester City charges at Leicester City, where he believes that a failure to gain promotion to the Premier League next May will probably earn him the sack, he told The Independent yesterday. The Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes arrived on a season-long loan yesterday joining Michael Johnson, Michael Ball, Kasper Schmeichel and Darius Vassell. But Eriksson believes those players who signed on for City should have established whether they could work at the club before committing. "I don't know if it's the difference in age between me and the young players today but the important thing when you sign for a new club if you are a manager or a coach is what is your target or your aim," Eriksson said.
"What do the club want to do? Do they want to be promoted, do they want to stay? Has the club a good future? Then you sign. Manchester City today you can't have any doubts about what they want to do and one day they will probably do it as well."
The decision of Eriksson's former Sampdoria protégé Roberto Mancini to push his board to swap Tevez for Internazionale's Samuel Eto'o is a consequence of the Argentine's long-standing dissatisfaction with the club and a city where he says he has found the weather poor and property prices high.
Eriksson said retaining unhappy players was not something a manager could countenance. "It's very difficult [to manage the situation] because you don't really want to have unhappy players," he said. "You know if a player is unhappy you don't want to keep them. It's very difficult to understand."
Eriksson has plenty of pressure on his shoulders, with Leicester's Thai family owners, led by Vichai Raksriaksorn, intent on promotion less than two years after acquiring the club. He and Raksriaksorn have not discussed the prospect of Leicester failing to go up, Eriksson said, and if that is the outcome there will "probably be another one sitting here next season", he admitted. The Thais, who paid Real Madrid £1m to play at Leicester last weekend, hope to take their summer spending to £14m before tomorrow's visit to Coventry – with a £6m move for Reading's Shane Long to go with the acquisition of Matt Mills (£5m), Schmeichel and Sean St Ledger (£1.2m each) and Paul Konchesky (£1m).
"You don't have fears," Eriksson added. "[Owners] hire you because they believe you are the right man and you can't have fear about that. Sometimes you think afterwards 'I could have done others things', but the owners we have are fantastic."
The Reading manager, Brian McDermott, said last night that there had been a tentative offer from Eriksson for Long early in the summer "but we've had no £7.5m email drop on our doorstep".