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Saturday 25 November 2017

That was the week: Sven mightier than sword but memoir reveals different truth

Dion Fanning

In Dead as Doornails, Anthony Cronin recalled the time he entered McDaid's one Sunday morning to find the poet Kavanagh surrounded by the newspapers.

Cronin had been reading the serialisation of the memoirs of the jockey Tommy Weston in the News of the World and mentioned this to Kavanagh, who confirmed he had also seen them.

"He must be broke," Cronin said.

"Any man at all that's writing anything whatever is broke. Don't you know that by now?"

Kavanagh, as usual, was right and now we see this profound truth illustrated in the case of Sven-Goran Eriksson who has published his memoirs to some confusion.

Sven was always baffled by the English media's interest in the details of his private life but the disappearance of approximately £10m from Sven's accounts has provoked a sustained interest from Sven in the details of his private life.

Again we see how a man's strength can become his weakness. Sven's genius always appeared to be his ability to get on with men with money.

Sven alleges that a former financial adviser's actions have resulted in the loss of this money, a claim that his former financial adviser denied.

In his memoirs, Sven said he never cared about money and talks about how he was impressed by the credentials of Samir Khan when he met him.

"Everything about him seemed to check out. He had an office in Bond Street, he'd worked for the golf pro Nick Faldo and he was one of the few advisers insured by the City of London."

By 2008, Sven says, Samir Khan was handling all his financial affairs, including an investment in a property development which had Harry Redknapp as the main investor. "Alarm bells rang one day when Harry's accountant called my agent, suggesting the scheme was not all it seemed."

Sven later ran into Harry who told him that his financial adviser was no good, an ominous warning which Sven acted on but by that stage, he claims, it was too late.

Sven might feel that the loss of his money is his great tragedy and he mourns the need to sell his home in Sweden. But he is also diminished as a public figure, not just because of his financial blows, but because he has decided to reveal all.

Something of Sven's joie de vivre has been lost, tied up as it was with the freedom working for a lot of rich men had brought him. The Sven that should be thriving now is the Sven recalled by Didi Hamann in his autobiography, not the Sven forced to reveal his affairs, long after his affairs were already revealed.

The Sven who should be blossoming is the Sven who greeted Didi on a post-season tour of Thailand one morning by handing him a glass of champagne and when Didi wondered what they were celebrating, Sven replied, "Life, Kaiser, we are celebrating life".

He went on to look forward to a few more years in management before he would retire to Thailand and "live with two women".

Life is tragedy full of joy and Sven's tragedy is that he has been denied this freedom and, in attempting to rectify it, he has given up another.

He has angered his ex-partner Nancy Dell'Olio with the portrait of her in his book: "The minute you woke up in the morning, you had to decide where you were going to eat dinner that night. It was exhausting."

Sven was devoutly committed to certain principles of relaxation and only now through his book, which he may ultimately consider cathartic, has he been able to voice it.

For so long, Sven appeared to be a man untouched by these problems, a man who had no need for anything cathartic unless it happened to be some sort of deep tissue massage.

He has, as many managers do, become implausible. His life is now the pursuit of work rather than the pursuit of pleasure and he has become a peripheral figure in football as he coaches in China, while not achieving his dream for the periphery by living with two women in Thailand.

Sven looked like he was equipped to deal with the world which he inhabited. He remained detached from much of what was happening to him. In England, they hailed him for this coolness, praising his fondness for Tibetan poetry and believing, as they needed to believe, that there was a deeply meditative core which was guiding Sven and England.

The truth was a little different. Sven practised a certain type of fatalism, recognising perhaps that whatever he said and did he would ultimately be pursued for it so the less he said and the less he did, the longer he could avoid capture.

His philosophy was different to that of, say, Paolo Di Canio. Sven's book is unlikely to contain a chapter detailing his war with players over tomato ketchup and mayonnaise. Di Canio remains unaware of his own implausibility, declaring last week that he was simply "too good" for Sunderland, a statement which his record gently rebuts.

To a carpenter with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail and to a quasi-fascist, Mussolini-admiring stickler for strong leadership, every problem looks like it needs firmer leadership. "If there was a mistake, it was that maybe I let them become too relaxed. I should have been more tough," Di Canio says and wonders if the players "wanted a big screen with a comedy movie".

Sven, you know, would have given them the big screen and the comedy. He was more tolerant of footballers and he was more tolerant of life and its mystery. It is perhaps the perfect temperament for the writer.

That and being broke.

dfanning@independent.ie

Sunday Independent

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