It’s often said in life that when one door closes, another opens – a well oiled cliché but it’s so often true in football and I believe Mario Balotelli’s departure from Manchester City to AC Milan could prove to be a classic example.
In the last twenty-four hours I’ve read plenty of column inches and listened to several radio shows screaming about Manchester City’s need to ‘spend big’ on a new striker to fill the void left by the talented Italian, who’ll hopefully realise his wonderful potential back on home soil. To an extent I can understand these calls for a proven goal-scorer, particularly with City playing catch-up in the Premier League title race, but I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about a player already on City’s books.
Swedish international, John Guidetti is exciting, explosive and desperate to prove himself at the club he credits for his development into the player that scored 20 league goals in 23 appearances on-loan at Feyenoord last season. His impressive strike-rate propelled the Rotterdam club to an unexpected second-place finish in the Eredivisie, helping them to build a solid platform that’s yielding further progress this season.
Guidetti proved immensely popular with the knowledgeable De Kuip crowd, who loved his passion, his energy and his will to win – although goals are the ultimate currency of any striker, and you could say consecutive hat-tricks against De Klassieker rivals Ajax and then FC Twente, perhaps did most to endear him to Feyenoord supporters.
You might even call Guidetti something of a ‘cult-hero’ with Feyenoord fans, a status often attributed to Mario Balotelli in England, but while the Italian’s popularity eventually became more about his off-pitch antics than his prowess on the pitch, the same couldn’t be said of Guidetti who seems to truly get the responsibility and expectations that go with representing a big club and Feyenoord certainly come into that category.
An example of what I mean actually came from a high-profile mistake by Guidetti, which earnt him a red-card and the wrath of Feyenoord Head Coach Ronald Koeman. Last February, Feyenoord went one-nil up against RKC Waalwijk after a penalty from the Swede, who then celebrated by taking his shirt off and was shown a second yellow card. Feyenoord were eventually held to a disappointing 1-1 draw and Guidetti missed an important game against PSV the following week.
Koeman gave the striker a very public dressing down, describing himself as “very angry” – the reaction of Guidetti was equally emotional but also showed a touch of class, describing the red-card as “one of the worst moments of my life”, before apologising to his team-mates, Koeman and the Feyenoord supporters. Since that day he’s only been booked once.
To me the whole episode proved a lot about the character and mindset of a player who is clearly desperate to realise his potential but also recognises he still has work to do and people to convince – upon signing a new three-year contract with Manchester City last October, he talked about “longing for” regular first team football at City whilst acknowledging he had to be “a bit more patient”.
The need for Guidetti to bide his time has been increased by a rare illness to his central nervous system, caused by food poisoning during the striker’s time in Holland, which caused temporary paralysis of his right leg. There was even speculation it could de-rail a very promising career but after some of the best medical treatment money can buy at City and nine-month recuperation, Guidetti is said to be inching ever-closer to a return to competitive action.
For that, and all the other reasons outlined, I imagine Guidetti to be something of a metaphorical coiled-spring – that his recovery from illness may well coincide with Mario Balotelli’s departure to Italy could save Manchester City tens-of-millions-of-pounds, and perhaps be the making of a player Ronald Koeman once described as having the potential to be “as good as Ibrahimovic.”