Eriksson heads for Thailand as swift resolution denied
Sven Goran Eriksson survived a meeting with Thaksin Shinawatra's senior aide on Sunday evening, but has been denied the prompt resolution he sought on his future and instead left to fly out to Thailand with the first team squad tonight on a 12-day club tour.
Eriksson had said he expected "clear words, one way or another" from Thaksin's right-hand man, Pairoj Piempongsant, whom he met on Sunday evening. He was not sacked by Pairoj, as had seemed possible – an outcome which puzzled some at the club but seems to be for no other reason than Thaksin's failure to find a replacement for him as yet, as well as the Thai's desire for a successful tour. The Swede's City career does appear over, though it seems he and the club will not make his dismissal public until the tour has concluded.
One of the Eriksson's values to Thaksin when he signed for him last July was his appeal to potential acquisitions and reports from Portugal suggest that Barcelona's Mexican striker Giovanni dos Santos, in whom Eriksson had an interest, might now wait to see if he becomes Benfica manager and sign for him there instead. The player's father – former Brazilian international Zizinho – has confirmed both that City have made a move for the player and that they seemed to be the favourite for a £7.8m rated import.
Sources close to Eriksson said yesterday that Benfica's £1.8m-a-year offer is on the backburner until the near farcical developments at City are resolved. Thaksin is clearly aware of the uproar he has caused in leaving the Swede's job hanging by a thread. It has led him to remove responsibility for his personal PR from Manchester City and hand it back to the Bell Pottinger agency, who had held it until last December and resumed work yesterday.
A spokesman for the agency said the demand for information generated by Thaksin's end of season review had prompted the agency's reinstatement. Thaksin recognised "the level of support from the fans for Eriksson", the spokesman said, though "no decision has been taken" on the manager's future.
The uncertainty makes for a bizarre tour. The club fly to Thailand tonight, play a Thailand Premier All-Stars team in Bangkok on Saturday and a game in Hong Kong against a South China Invitational XI five days later. Several football clinics will be included and promotional duties including the opening of a club shop on the ground floor of Thaksin's own corporate HQ in Bangkok. The club return a week on Friday.
Eriksson is due to meet Thaksin in Thailand though it is unclear on which day. The Swede is said to be prepared to delay an announcement on his own sacking, despite his treatment by the man who hired him last July.
City may also have to wait until Monday to discover if they have qualified for the Uefa Cup through the Fair Play League – or whether Fulham will cap an extraordinary turn-around in fortunes by pipping them. The Premier League has confirmed that the crowd trouble that marred the end of Sunday's game will not undermine their chances but Richard Dunne's dismissal might. The Premier League said yesterday that the complexities of the points system made it impossible to know which of the two sides would make it. The decision will be reached by Friday at the earliest.