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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Manager Series: Sven-Göran Eriksson

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Sven-Göran Eriksson was manager at Lazio from 1997 to 2000 during which Lazio won a Scudetto, 2 Coppa Italia's, 2 Italian Supercups, a European Super Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup.

Official SS Lazio photo

He born in Sunne, Sweden, on February 5, 1948. He grew up in Torsby, a small village in Central Sweden. His father was a bus driver and his mother worked in a drapers shop.

Sven had a career as a player but in the lower divisions. He was a left full-back. From 1966-71 he played 109 league games for Torsby IF with 23 goals. He then played a year for SK Sifhälla with 22 appearances and 1 goal followed by a season with KB Karlskoga with 19 games and 4 goals. Between 1973-75 he played 50 league games for Västra Frölunda with 5 goals. In 1975 his career was ended by a serious knee injury and at 27 he was forced to retire.

Sven however wanted to stay in the football world and in 1976-77 became assistant manager to his mentor Tord Grip at Degerfors in Division 3. The following year Eriksson took over and won the league. A curious fact about Degerfors is that it is where the great Gunnar Nordhal made his league debut.

His early success earned him a call from IFK Göteborg where he became manager in 1979 in the top division. He stayed four seasons winning a league title (1982), 2 Swedish Cups (1979, 1982) and, incredibly for a Swedish club, the UEFA Cup in 1982 beating Hamburger SV 4-0 on aggregate.

Domestic and European success led him to Portugal where he took over at Benfica in 1982-83. He stayed two seasons winning 2 league titles and a Portuguese Cup (1983). The "Águias" (Eagles) also reached the UEFA Cup final but lost to Anderlecht 1-2 on aggregate.

In 1984 he came to Italy. He joined Roma who were still recovering from the disappointment of losing the European Cup final at home to Liverpool on penalties (I personally had the satisfaction of watching it among 100,000 Roma fans on a mega screen at the Circus Maximus, for self-preservation reasons I obviously celebrated later...).

Officially he was Technical Director, for the usual bureaucratic reasons (former Lazio Roberto Clagluna was manager). In Eriksson's first year the Giallorossi finished 7th.

In 1985-86, with Angelo Sormani officially as manager, Roma went extremely close to the Scudetto. They were top of the table with two games to go but incredibly lost 2-3 at home to Eugenio Fascetti’s Lecce, who were already relegated. The Scudetto went to Juventus. Roma found some consolation in the Coppa Italia beating Sampdoria 3-2 on aggregate.

Eriksson stayed on one more year but the moment was gone and Roma finished 7th. In fact the Swede resigned two matches from the end.

In 1987-88 he stayed in Serie A but went to Fiorentina. This time he was still officially Technical Director but worked with former Roma player Sergio Santarini. He stayed two seasons in Florence and the "Viola" finished 8th and 7th.

At this point he returned to Portugal and Benfica. His second spell with "O Glorioso" lasted three years. He won one more league title (1991) and a Portuguese Supercup (1989). The "Encarnados" (The Reds) from Lisbon also reached the European Cup final in 1990 but lost to Milan, 0-1 in Vienna (Frank Rijkaard).

In 1992 he moved back to Italy and took charge at Sampdoria. He had five good seasons in Genova. The Blucerchiati finished 7th, 3rd, 8th twice and 6th. "La Samp" won the Coppa Italia in 1994, beating Ancona 6-1 on aggregate.

In 1997 he made a life changing move for himself and for Lazio. He was called by ambitious Lazio owner Sergio Cragnotti to try and win silverware. Eriksson accepted but requested Roberto Mancini as part of the deal. He would later ask for Sinisa Mihajlovic ('98) and Sebastian Veron ('99).

In his first year Lazio finished 7th but won four derbies and the Coppa Italia after forty years, defeating Milan 3-2 on aggregate (Guerino Gottardi, Vladimir Jugovic, Alessandro Nesta). They also reached the UEFA Cup final but ran out of energy and lost 0-3 to Ronaldo's Inter, at the Parc des Princes in Paris.

In 1998-99 opened with another trophy, the Italian Supercoppa won 2-1 away against Juventus (Pavel Nedved, Sergio Conceição). In the league, Lazio were within touching distance of the Scudetto but were overtaken by Milan in the penultimate match, after the Biancocelesti were controversially held to a 1-1 draw in Florence. They however lifted another cup, this time triumphing in the European Cup Winners Cup, beating Real Mallorca 2-1 (Christian Vieri, Nedved) at Villa Park in Birmingham.

The 1999-2000 was a season to remember. Lazio first won the European Super Cup in August, beating Manchester United 1-0 (Marcelo Salas) in Monte Carlo. Then the Biancocelesti won the Scudetto with a dramatic end of season surge, overtaking Juventus in the last game of the season on May 14. Lazio and the fans had to wait over an hour in the Olimpico before celebrating as Juventus' game in Perugia had temporarily been interrupted due to a waterlogged pitch. In the end however Eriksson won Lazio the league title for only the second time in their history and 26 years after Tommaso Maestrelli's crazy gang of 1974.

A few days later, still inebriated with joy and champagne, Lazio also won the Coppa Italia beating Inter 2-1 on aggregate thus completing a historic double.

In September 2000 Lazio then won the Italian Supercoppa, defeating Inter 4-3 in Rome. Eriksson's adventure with Lazio however ended abruptly in January. He had already agreed to take on the England job in July and this had a negative impact on Lazio's performances. After a 1-2 home defeat by Napoli on January 7 he resigned. Lazio then had a positive season and came 3rd under Dino Zoff, contending the title with Roma and Juventus until the end (I can't exactly recall who won it in the end…. ).

So in 2001 Eriksson's England career started early. It lasted five years. He qualified for the 2002 World Cup where England lost to Felipe Scolari's Brazil in the quarterfinals (the 'Verdeoro' would then win it). In Euro 2004 England lost to Scolari's Portugal on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

At this point, like with so many managers before and since, the press and especially the tabloids turned against Eriksson (also due to gossip about his affair with Nancy Dall'Olio). England reached the 2006 World Cup but Scolari and Portugal were their downfall again after a penalty shoot out in the quarterfinals. Eriksson then resigned. His best result had been a 5-1 away thrashing of old rivals Germany, in a world cup qualifier in 2001 (Michael Owen hat-trick).

He then took a year off and returned to club football in 2007 joining Manchester City. The Citizens finished 9th in the Premier League, only qualifying for the UEFA Cup due to Fair Play ranking. For the following season he was replaced by Wales and Manchester United legend Mark Hughes.

In 2008 Eriksson became the manager of Mexico. During a disappointing attempt to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, he was sacked in April 2009.

Eriksson then took a break from coaching and in July 2009 accepted the role of General Director at ambitious Notts County in League Two (4th tier). By February 2010 the funds had run dry and he resigned. The team he had put together however got promoted to League One.

He did then take part in the South African 2010 World Cup tournament as he took over the Ivory Coast job in March. The "Elephants" did not get through the group phase after 1 win (North Korea 3-0), 1 draw (Portugal 0-0) and 1 defeat (Brazil 1-3), a difficult group to be fair.

He then returned to England and club football. In October 2010 he replaced Paulo Sousa at Leicester City in the Championship. The Foxes finished 10th.

The following season he stayed on but was sacked after 13 matches of which he had won 5, drawn 4 and lost 4.

He then became Technical Director of BEC Tero Sasana in the Thai Premier League. He had complete control of the running of the club but his stint only lasted a few months.

On January 21, 2013 he became Technical Director of Al-Nasr in the Arab Emirates Pro-League. The manager was Italian Walter Zenga, one of his former goalkeepers from his Sampdoria days. Eriksson resigned after six months, on June 3.

His next job was in China. In 2013 he joined Guangzhou R&F. The Blue Lions however only came 9th in the Super League.

In November 2014 he was sacked but a week later became manager of Shanghai SIPG. He finished 2nd with the Red Eagles, only two points behind champions Guangzhou Evergrande (whose manager was Fabio Cannavaro and then Felipe Scolari, Eriksson's old nemesis).

The following year Shanghai finished 3rd and Eriksson was fired in November and replaced by André Villas-Boas.

His Chinese spell continued however as on December 5 he took over from Clarence Seedorf at Shenzhen in the second division. He started well with the Youth Army, with 5 consecutive wins, but then did not win in the next 8 games and was replaced in June 2017.

On October 27, 2018 Eriksson accepted the coaching role of the Philippines national side. It is clear at this point that his career was sliding into football obscurity despite the probable healthiness of his bank account. The Stray Dogs lost all three matches under Eriksson in the Asian Cup and the Swede was sacked. That was his last, inglorious, managerial role.

On December 6, 2022, Eriksson, already back in Sweden working as a consultant for IF Karlstad in the 3rd tier, became their Sporting Director. Unfortunately after just under three months Eriksson announced he had to temporarily take a break due to health issues.

There are two parts to Eriksson's career. A first part in which he was highly respected and successful. He won trophies in Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Portugal again, Italy again. Then came the England job with some unlucky penalty defeats followed by a second part of his career where, after Manchester City, he tried Mexico, Ivory Coast, English 2nd tier, China and the Philippines and maybe lost some of the respect he had built up in his earlier experiences.

He will always be remembered for his feats however. He is one of the few managers to have won a double (league and cup) in three different countries, including 5 league titles. In Italy alone he has won 4 Italian Cups with 3 different teams (Roma, Sampdoria and Lazio).

As a manager Eriksson was initially influenced by his mentor Tord Grip and followed the English style of play introduced to Sweden by Bob Houghton and Ray Hodgson. He then obviously evolved through his foreign experiences. He favoured a 4-4-2 formation but did adapt to a 4-5-1 from his third year at Lazio. His teams were compact, playing the ball a lot with continuous passes. He used pressing and a basic form of zonal marking and always tried to take advantage of the wings. His teams often seemed to find a good balance between tactical organization and a freedom, especially for the more talented players, to invent, create and express their skills.

At Lazio he is adored. He is the hero of the second Scudetto in 2000. When Lazio were nine points behind Juventus, he was one of the few who still believed the dream was possible, and he was right. The Lazio faithful loved his aplomb, elegance, optimism and calm character. If nowadays José Mourinho in many ways mirrors the “Roma way”, Eriksson represented the “Lazio style” well. In his years at Lazio he had the merit, with his balance and flexibility, to have managed to get great players with strong personalities to all play for the same cause and how they played, a wonderful team to watch. The only possible criticism could be that they were so good they could have won more but a Scudetto, 2 Coppa Italia's, 2 Italian Supercups, a European Super Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup will always make him a legend for life at Lazio.

He came back to watch a Lazio game after 23 years in the 2022-23 season and was welcomed as a long lost hero by the Curva Nord and the whole stadium. "Grazie di tutto Svennis".

Official SS Lazio photo



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