Sven-Goran Eriksson re Leicester_00001903.jpg
Sven-Goran Eriksson talks about Leicester City F.C.
01:18 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Eriksson impressed by his former team

Says Leicester "will win" Premier League

Describes Thai owner as "a good man"

Swede now coaches in China

CNN  — 

Over the course of a long and decorated career, Sven-Göran Eriksson has seen it all.

From the Swedish lower leagues to the riches of Shanghai, he has managed everywhere from Lazio to Manchester City, comprising stints as far afield as the Ivory Coast and Mexico.

But even the former England coach is struggling to comprehend the incredible achievements of Leicester City, which is on the cusp of winning the English Premier League just a year after narrowly avoiding relegation.

Claudio Ranieri’s team can clinch the top-flight title for the first time in the Foxes’ 132-year history by beating Manchester United on Sunday.

“It’s fantastic,” Eriksson tells CNN. “It’s like a dream for everyone that loves football.

“Suddenly Leicester who struggled last season to stay in the Premier League will win it. And I am quite sure they will win it.”

Shinji Okazaki and Jamie Vardy celebrate one of Leicester City's 63 league goals this season.

Laying the foundations

Eriksson managed Leicester when the club was in English football’s second tier, prowling the touchline for just one campaign before leaving by mutual consent on October 25, 2011.

Then Leicester sat 13th in the Championship, two points shy of a top-six playoff position. At that time, mere promotion to the Premier League after a six-year absence was the dream; the possibility of anything more was simply not considered.

Sven-Goran Eriksson once occupied the Leicester City hotseat.

Fast forward five years and Italian Ranieri – also a veteran well-traveled coach – has transformed the club in his first season in charge, building on the good work of Nigel Pearson before him.

So does “Svennis” – as he is affectionately known in his homeland Sweden – feel proud, or in any way responsible for the Foxes’ meteoric rise?

He pauses. A wry smile. “I don’t think so. I took Kasper Schmeichel there.”

The Schmeichels: Like father like son.

Eriksson might afford himself a pat on the back, however small. Indeed, no goalkeeper in the Premier League has more clean sheets to his name this season than the Dane’s 15.

“He’s been fantastic,” the 68-year-old says of the son of former Manchester United great Peter Schmeichel, “so that’s good.”

Thai benefactor

If Eriksson’s appointment at Leicester was thought a considerable coup at the time – he had just been to his third World Cup as a coach – the club has only continued to surprise under billionaire Thai owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

“He always said that he wants to do very well with Leicester,” Eriksson says of the man who appointed him soon after buying the club. “He never told me he wanted to win the Premier League, but there we are!

“He’s a good man, and he’s a football man. I like him very much and I think all the players and the staff love him.”

Leicester's club logo next to a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit.

Football fairytale

“I really hope that Leicester win the Premier League,” Eriksson adds. “When will that happen again?!”

He is not the first to acknowledge the scale of his former team’s achievements this season.

Leicester’s preseason odds of winning the title were set at 5,000-1. To put that into perspective, bookmakers currently consider more likely that reality TV star Kim Kardashian will be appointed U.S. President (2,000-1), rock star Bono will be named as the next Pope (1,000-1) and alien life will be discovered by the end of 2017 (200-1).

Eriksson, whose Shanghai SIPG team was runner-up in China’s Super League last season, has been on the coaching scene since the late 1970s.

But he remains a football romantic, expressing his excitement for Leicester’s amazing underdog fairytale story as he proclaims: “They will win it now!”

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Eriksson has coached in China since 2013.