John Guidetti has burst onto the scene this season, going from young Manchester City starlet to one of the most deadly strikers in Holland’s Eredivisie with Feyenoord. Record after record has fallen to the 20-year-old, who is also tipped to make a big impact this summer at Euro 2012 with Sweden.
Inside Futbol went to speak to the man who, in February, became only the second player in Eredivisie history to score three hat-tricks in three consecutive home games:
Inside Futbol (IF): John, one year ago you were just one of many rising talents at an English Premier League club’s academy, while now you are one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. How do you feel?
John Guidetti (JG): I am extremely proud about what we [Feyenoord] have done. When I came to Rotterdam last summer, I heard that last season Feyenoord finished tenth and their aim was to grab sixth spot. We’ve gone beyond all expectations, also considering our budget. If you look at Ajax, they spent €17M on just one player, Miralem Sulejmani. Feyenoord built a team for the price of some cheeseburgers.
IF: What is the secret behind Feyenoord’s outstanding performances?
JG: In my opinion a winning team is often made by a good balance between experienced and young players. Last season it was hard for Feyenoord, while this time we are fighting for the title, or at least a Champions League spot. And we’ll keep going until the end.
IF: It is often said that working under coach Ronald Koeman is not easy. What’s your opinion about that?
JG: Ronald Koeman is like a father to me. And, as happens with every father, sometimes you love him and sometimes you hate him. After a discussion however, I often find out he was right.
IF: What has impressed you the most about your experience in Holland?
JG: Feyenoord’s supporters; they are incredible. Last season, the week after they lost 10-0 against PSV Eindhoven, there were 49,000 at De Kuip. Where in the world could you find such faith?
IF: You’ve said you don’t feel pressure, because pressure is your drug. Did you think the same thing even in your first few games at De Kuip?
JG: I can’t say I was the quietest guy in the world during those moments: Especially when I had to take a penalty. It is not easy for a 19-year-old to take one in front of thousands and thousands of spectators. But you are on the stage, and you must play.
IF: Speaking of playing in the Eredivisie, will you be in the league next season?
JG: I can say one thing for sure: My aim is to play. This is the reason why last summer I chose Feyenoord. That is the same for my future. I’m looking for a club that tells me ‘John, you are our first or second striker. Here’s the number 9 or 10 shirt’. At Manchester City they gave me the number 60 shirt! Obviously I’m looking forward to playing in a top team and it will be important what City decide to do next summer. For me and my career, playing as a regular in the current season has been fundamental.
IF: You’re surely heading to Euro 2012 this summer with Sweden. What are your expectations for the tournament in Poland and the Ukraine?
JG: I’m very confident about Sweden’s chances. Our team is really competitive. If someone thinks we’re simply a “Zlatan Ibrahimovic plus ten other players” team, they are making a big mistake. Zlatan of course is our top player, but we shouldn’t forget footballers like [Johan] Elmander, [Kim] Kallstrom, [Pontus] Wernbloom or Ramsus Elm, who are all performing well in the leagues where they play.
IF: Do you think Sweden could be dark horses at Euro 2012?
JG: It is surely our intention to be the surprise package of Euro 2012. Recently we beat a strong Croatia team away from home and of course, nobody can forget what Greece did in 2004. It is important to remember that the European Championship is a tournament without underdogs.
IF: Apart from co-hosts Ukraine, your opponents in the group stage will be England and France. Who do you fear the most, Wayne Rooney or Karim Benzema?
JG: My philosophy is respect for everyone but fear of no one – neither England or France. It will be a pleasure to play against them. Those will be difficult games for us, especially when you face international stars such as those players you mentioned. However, we don’t have to suffer any kind of inferiority complex against any opponents.
IF: What can you tell us about the time you spent in Kenya when you were young? It’s a different experience from that of many European players.
JG: I lived in Kenya from the age of three to six, and then again from ten to twelve. My father worked for a school project in Kibera, a large slum area in Nairobi. There the rich men were not good at football, so I preferred to stay with the poor. I played barefoot even if I had a pair of shoes, because I did not want to be different to my team-mates. I went to school barefoot too.
IF: How much can growing up in Africa change people’s way of approaching life?
JG: A lot. When you see two fishermen trying to steal each other’s fishing nets, or when you hear that one of the guys you played against was shot dead by the police after a robbery, you see life through different eyes.
IF: Your father has played a key role in your career, hasn’t he?
JG: For sure. I’ve got a strong link with him and my family. Sometimes it is difficult to play in a foreign country, far from your loved ones. However, this is the price you must pay to get to the top. And even if it is difficult, I know I am doing this for a good purpose.
IF: Who is your idol in football?
JG: When I was a kid I liked Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri. At the 1998 World Cup in France I supported Italy, not Sweden. Now in my opinion Ibrahimovic is at the top. I like him both as a footballer and as a person. An out of the ordinary guy, who always does things on his own.
IF: Turning away from strikers, who is the toughest defender you have ever played against?
JG: Vincent Kompany. No doubt about it.
IF: And finally, at Manchester City, what is the most bizarre thing to have happened to you?
JG: Once, in the dressing room, I found my football boots cut in two. Unfair competition, you know.