John Guidetti is currently the most outstanding player in Holland’s Eredivisie – of that there can be no doubt. With 18 goals in 17 games, the Swedish striker is dragging Feyenoord back into the Dutch elite after years of disappointing performances. Guidetti, on loan in Rotterdam from Manchester City, has impressed with his ability to blend physical toughness, fine technique, a hard-working attitude and cold-blooded composure in front of goal. What makes the 19-year-old’s rise all the more astonishing is that before joining Feyenoord, Guidetti had played only 15 official matches in four seasons – now he has taken Holland by storm. Inside Futbol introduce one of Europe’s most promising fledgling talents of the 2011/12 season.
Mike Guidetti, John’s father, has worked for years in Kenya with a Swedish school project in Nairobi, and his son – born in Stockholm on 15th April, 1992 – spent part of his childhood in the African country. “That period was very important for my development, both on and off the pitch”, said John Guidetti. “I played football barefoot in the slum areas of Nairobi and I came into contact with local people and their culture. I still have a strong link with Kenya and every time I go back there I always get a warm welcome.” The striker’s family own a football club in the country: Blackstars Kibera. “Football is only a starting point for us as we want to build a school and hospital close to the training complex of the club. It is a project with many purposes.”
John Guidetti’s granddad hailed from Italy. And there was, until recently, always the possibility that the budding forward could be snapped up by the Azzurri, watched closely as he was by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. Sweden boss Erik Hamren stated he was “incredibly impressed by Guidetti” though and the Manchester City man made his debut in a friendly against Croatia on 29th February. For Sweden, capping Guidetti was a relief, with the forward admitting he had taken a keen interest in the Azzurri. “I decided I wanted to become a professional footballer when I was six, watching Italy at the 1998 World Cup in France. I didn’t support Sweden, they were irrelevant to me. My idols were Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri. Since that summer, I started to focus on football.”
Guidetti has played twice for the Stockholm-based Bromma side, a club famed for their youth academy. After making his debut in 2008 with the first team in Sweden’s second tier, the Superettan, he came back on loan from Manchester City for the 2010 campaign – this time in the country’s top flight. Guidetti made his Allsvenskan debut against Trelleborg and had an instant impact, providing an assist for the winning goal in the dying minutes. His outstanding contribution led to a starting spot in the club’s next game against Gefle, and he did not disappoint, grabbing a goal and laying on another. His loan spell ended with three goals and four assists in eight games played.
The budding forward was brought to Manchester City at the age of 15 by Sven-Goran Eriksson. After he had proved his worth both with the Citizens’ Under-18s and reserve team, Robert Mancini handed Guidetti his first team chance in the League Cup against West Bromwich Albion. The Swede provided an assist for City’s only goal. In the summer of 2011, Guidetti inked a three-year extension to his deal at Eastlands and was then loaned to Feyenoord for the 2011/12 season. “I don’t know what pressure means”, said Guidetti. “Pressure is my drug. However, my desire was to play a season as a regular. It was something that was impossible at City. I have no fear about competing for a place in the starting eleven, but in pre-season City gave me the number 60 shirt. That meant there were 50 players between me and the pitch. It would have been an unfair race.”
A one month loan with Championship outfit Burnley gave Guidetti the chance to score his first official goal in England. He did it on 26th December, 2010, against Barnsley. After five games, Manchester City recalled the forward.
Against Vitesse on 12th February, Guidetti scored his third hat-trick in a row in De Kuip, becoming the second player in Eredivisie history, after Ajax forward Cees Groot, to find the back of the net three times in three consecutive home games. And this at just 19 years old. Only three players were younger when they collected their first hat-trick in Holland’s top flight: Johan Cryuff, Marco van Basten and Wim Kieft. Meanwhile, the last Feyenoord man to score three hat-tricks in a season was Dirk Kuyt in 2004/05.
For every Feyenoord fan, the most important match of the season is undoubtedly the clash against rivals Ajax. At the end of January, the Rotterdam side beat their arch-rivals 4-2, their first victory since 2006 – and had a Guidetti hat-trick to thank for it. It was the first time the feat had been achieved since Hans Venneker struck five goals in a 9-4 win over Ajax on 19th November, 1964. Guidetti’s superb performance inspired Feyenoord’s supporters to launch an online petition to keep the striker at De Kuip for another season. So far more than 30,000 people have signed it.
Guidetti’s goals are rarely spectacular – close range tap-ins, one-on-ones against the goalkeeper, crosses deflected into the net via a shoulder, penalty kicks (six out of 17 goals scored). However, the Swede’s ruthlessness in front of goal makes him a “youthful phenomenon”, according to coach Ronald Koeman. At the time of writing, Guidetti is the second most efficient Eredivisie striker, with an average goal per minute ratio of 71.61, due to 18 goals in 1289 minutes played. Only Ajax forward Dmitriy Bulykin (goal average of 64.75) is better. The Russian however has played just 518 minutes of football, scoring eight times.
Former Italian player Salvatore Bagni has described Guidetti as a walking mountain. “But he knows how to strike the ball too”, said Bagni. “When I was a transfer advisor for Bologna, I tried to bring Guidetti to Italy. From the first time I saw him, I was deeply impressed by his physical strength blended with fine techique and speed. His composure in front of goal was amazing too. In my opinion he was perfect for a tactical but also physical league like Serie A. However, his price was too high.”
Latin blood runs through Guidetti’s veins. “I have a hot temperament and I can’t stand losing”, said the striker. “When I played with Brommapojkarna’s youth team, I had a lot of discussions with coaches and referees. My team-mates called me “the special one” because I always gave 110%. And I always played to win, against every opponent. I like to make jokes in the dressing room too. Some at Feyenoord have said ‘John, you are crazy’. Let me be a little crazy. If you want to make it to the top you must be a bit mad. Just look at the top players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Mario Balotelli. They are indeed not ordinary guys.”
Guidetti has his own foundation to help the poor. “A word is enough to describe the current situation in Kenya – chaos. I saw fishermen trying to steal each other’s fishing nets. One of my former team-mates worked in a factory from five in the morning until seven at night for 25 eurocents per hour. And I can’t forget a talented kid who played for a club owned by a French woman. A phenomenon. One day I asked a friend about him and his team – one of the toughest opponents I’ve ever played. He replied that most of the players had given up football to become gangsters. The phenomenon did too – and he was shot dead by the police.”