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Q&A with Sven-Göran Eriksson - Investor vs Football Manager

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Saxo Group

In an exclusive interview, we sat down with former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson to discuss the parallels of investing and football management.

Decision-making is equally important in investing and as a football manager. How much of your work has come down to logic and not emotions and impulse?

“You always need to use logic. Football is an art. You never know what is going to happen in a football match before it starts. You have to use your brain when you pick the squad and when you pick the team. You have to put emotions to one side because with emotions, you don’t win football games. 

On matchday, you have to select your best starting eleven that you think is going to perform the best for certain games. When you work in a company, it’s the same thing. You have to do what you think is right, for the moment both in friendship and relationship, whatever it is, put that away, because that has nothing to do with football and logic.”

In trading, basing your decisions on predetermined knowledge, known as anchoring, or being emotionally involved in a stock can be two of the biggest hazards in making investments. For a manager, an example of this could be making decisions based on players’ egos or prior media perception of players. How does a manager deal with this?

"The manager will try to put out the best eleven and make changes during the game in order to win as many games as possible. If you don't play well and lose too many games, who will get the blame? The manager will be blamed for not winning games. You have to play the best players you think will win the game for you even if it means dropping a big name.”

A recent real-life example of this is the relationship between Cristiano Ronaldo and manager Erik Ten Hag at Manchester United. 

“With Ronaldo, it’s a difficult one. We are talking about one of the best players in the world for many, many, years, scoring goals for fun. The day will come when the manager thinks no. I prefer other players. In this case, I think personally, it's very important that you sell Ronaldo because he cannot stay. I don’t think he should stay at Manchester United if he doesn’t play. He's too big of a name and it will always create these discussions. If results are not good and if Manchester United fail to qualify for the Champions League this season, that's a failure for the club.“

Investors look to take advantage of short trading and long trading positions. In 2002, the England squad you selected was flagged as fairly inexperienced at the time. Like with long-trading, some decisions are made for long-term investment - was that the case here?

“It was always nice to inherit young, talented players, but the balance of a team is extremely important. In 2002, we were not ready to win the World Cup. Brazil went on to deservedly win the World Cup. In 2006, I thought at the time and still today, we had a squad which was not worse than any other team at that World Cup. So yes, I’m sure the experience players gained in 2002 made the team better in 2006. I knew that this was a golden opportunity to win the World Cup but we didn't and we should have done it.”

Risk and reward play a big part in trading strategies, for example; knowing when to sell and how to take advantage of positions. You took a big risk to include David Beckham in your 2002 World Cup squad who was returning from fitness, this ultimately paid off. However, was this a risk you feel you had to make? 

“When David Beckham got injured prior to the 2002 World Cup, he was a key player and my captain. It was my responsibility on whether he should or shouldn’t go to the World Cup. There were a lot of talks with the manager of the club, doctors of the club, doctors of the national team and with the player. If there is a small chance that they can play at any stage in the World Cup, then you have to pick them. You cannot do otherwise. 

This is the same with current England manager Gareth Southgate, he has a lot of players that he can’t afford to lose. If Harry Kane got injured prior to the World Cup, it would be a complete disaster.”

Who could you see winning the World Cup and who do you think will be the stand out player?

"If I were to put money on which team is going to win the World Cup, I would say maybe England but most likely Brazil. I think they have fantastic football players out there with speed, technique and experience with several Brazilians playing in Europe. I hope England will do it but let’s see. I hope Harry Kane will be the stand out player of the tournament, this would be great for England. However, you also have Karim Benzema, Neymar and so many others.”

How do you think the Netherlands could do?

“We're talking about a team who in the past, would be one of the favourites to win the World Cup. They were always in the semi-finals and would occasionally reach the final.  In this World Cup, I can’t see Netherlands reaching the semi-finals. There are other teams that have a stronger chance of winning the World Cup. For example, I think Belgium is better than Holland and then you have Argentina, Brazil, England, France and Spain, who all have a better chance of winning the World Cup.”

There’s been opposing views on Raheem Sterling’s place as a starter for England - what are your thoughts and how much of an effect does form have in the build-up to a major tournament?

“It's a very difficult World Cup because there are no friendly games prior to the tournament. Normally you have the players several weeks before the World Cup starts. You have training and play one or two friendly games. Now, there are no friendly games. There's some days after you play in the Premier League and you don't have as much time for training. I think it's very much dependent on the form the players are in currently. Sterling has incredible pace and one against one he can dribble and win games for England but he can also do this from the bench.”

Do you believe Marcus Rashford is back to his best? How do you rate his chances of starting for England?

“In recent games for Man United, he has played very well and is starting to look like the player he was a couple of years ago. I’m not sure what happened to him in the last few seasons. He looked down for a while. That happens to players, but he looks very confident and he looks very good. He has a good chance of starting. It's good for England and it’s good for Southgate.”

Should James Maddison be starting in England’s first game?

“I think James Maddison is doing extremely well at the moment. There are no big preparations before this World Cup going straight from the Premier League to the World Cup. Southgate can see that he's in great shape at the moment. That is why he’s been selected.”

Jude Bellingham has been a regular starter for England. If he has a good tournament, would moving to a big club in the Premier League be a good move for him at this time?

“He's playing in a great team and he's playing in arguably the second best league in Europe behind the Premier League. This has been the case for many years now. Playing for Dortmund, Bellingham won’t miss any chances to play in the national team. Some of the big Premier League clubs will come in for him. It will be important for him to play well at this World Cup, I'm sure that one of the big clubs in England will try to sign him in the summer.”

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