Sven-Goran Eriksson has praised John Terry as “one of the best” he ever worked with.
The defender announced his retirement aged 37 on Sunday after a successful career in which, as Chelsea captain, he won numerous major trophies and also became a crucial figure for England.
Eriksson handed Terry his international debut against Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 and was so convinced by his qualities that he later broke up his long-term central defence of Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell to build a new one around Ferdinand and Terry.
The latter’s selection also came when Eriksson had the finest collection of defenders any England manager has ever had – Ledley King, Jamie Carragher and Jonathan Woodgate were further alternatives – and even with Italy’s Alessandro Nesta among the others he has coached, Terry still stands out.
“He’s absolutely one of the best central defenders I had,” the Swede, 70, said. “(Like) Nesta, Ferdinand – great player.
“He has been a great, great football player, for Chelsea, for England, and he had a long and very good career. It’s interesting to see what he’s going to do – is he going to be a manager?
“(His application was) perfect. Hard-working, always doing exactly what you want him to do; good with other players, always performing. Fantastic.
“He was a leader; in that team with England I had many leaders, and he was one of them, for sure.”
Eriksson was so impressed by Terry’s leadership qualities that, at the 2006 World Cup, and on the occasions David Beckham was not playing, it was the defender who was handed the captain’s armband.
Terry is in contention to join Aston Villa as a coach regardless of whether Thierry Henry is appointed as the Championship club’s new manger, and Eriksson believes his experience in working under Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and others means he is set up to succeed.
“I’m sure Terry can be (a manager) if he wants,” he added. “But that’s a big commitment – if he wants to do that, of course he can. He has been working under so many extremely good managers, so he’s learned a lot from everybody, and he’s a clever man, so he can do it for sure.”