x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Manchester City boy John Guidetti finds his feet at Feyenoord

Since being loaned out for a season by Manchester City, the striker, 19, has seen his stock rise across Europe, writes Andy Mitten. Video interview

John Guidetti, the Swedish striker, has had a positive influence over the Feyenoord team both on and off the pitch. The 19 year old  is said to choose the music in the dressing room and also makes the jokes.
John Guidetti, the Swedish striker, has had a positive influence over the Feyenoord team both on and off the pitch. The 19 year old is said to choose the music in the dressing room and also makes the jokes.

Storm clouds gathered over Rotterdam and an icy chill from the North Sea blew into Europe's biggest port.

By Feyenoord's iconic De Kuip home, a giant barge was pushed sideways by winds on the mighty Nieuwe Maas river.

Events on Saturday were just as turbulent inside the most atmospheric of Dutch football stadium. John Guidetti, Feyenoord's leading scorer with 18 goals from just 16 starts this season, shifted from hero to villain in the space of a minute.

True to form, the 19-year-old Swede, who is on a season-long loan from Manchester City, scored a 77th-minute penalty. He had scored hat-tricks in each of his previous three home league matches and attracted the attention of Bayern Munich.

Guidetti celebrated the goal by taking his shirt off – and earning a dismissal for a second yellow card. Mid-table RKC Waalwijk took advantage of the extra man and equalised 10 minutes later.

Guidetti later apologised, but Feyenoord fans, well-used to more lows than highs, had already excused him.

"He's our new hero," enthused supporter Jan on a platform at Rotterdam Centraal before the Waalwijk game.

"He scored a hat-trick against Ajax last month, what more can a Feyenoord player do?"

Those goals came in a 4-2 win, Feyenoord's first victory against their rivals in six years. Ronald Koeman, the coach, described him as "phenomenal" and despite the loan deal ending in May, several Feyenoord fans have had tattoos of Guidetti. Next week, they present a book of 31,000 signatures requesting that he stays.

Feyenoord are enraptured by Guidetti's energetic style of play, his non-stop running and bustling, his initiative.

"Feyenoord is a very young team," said Thijs Slegers, a writer for Voetbal International. "But they are guided by the youngest of all, Guidetti.

"He's already the most important player on and off the field; he chooses the music in the dressing room, he makes the jokes. He influences everything in a good way.

"At first, people were sceptical and didn't know what to make of him. Feyenoord have had a lot of bad strikers since Dirk Kuyt left [in 2006] and they thought he would be the same. Now, there has never been a player become so popular so quickly."

There is even serious talk of a Guidetti statue.

Born and bred in Stockholm, Guidetti left local club Brommapojkarna for Manchester at 15, following in the footsteps of Bojan Djordic, who had left Brommapojkarna for City's neighbours United at 17 in 1999.

"John is very mature for his age," said Djordic, who has known Guidetti since he was a youngster and now plays just 40 minutes from Rotterdam in Antwerp. The pair are still close.

"He's always had the talent and mentality to work hard. He's just been waiting for this opportunity."

Guidetti was a star for City's Under 18s, where he scored 13 goals in 13 games. Included in City's first team squad for the 2010 US tour, he played one game in the Carling Cup in October 2010 before being loaned back to Brommapojkarna and then to English Championship side Burnley in 2011.

With his City contract up, Guidetti was about to sign on loan for the Dutch side Twente. He moved instead to Feyenoord on transfer deadline day in August 2011 and scored a hat-trick against Twente when the clubs next met.

"John has a very good mental state," said Djordic. "He knows what he wants and he goes after that. If you don't know him, you can find him offensive, but he doesn't apologise for his manner and doesn't hold back. Being only 19, some might say: 'Well, what have you done in the game so far?' but that doesn't bother him.

"He's got the mentality to make it at the top. He works really hard and that hard work is paying off at Feyenoord."

And Guidetti is tough. "I call him the little pit bull and he has a head like a little Swedish meatball," said Djordic. "The Dutch league suits him and the goals are giving him more confidence."

After representing Sweden at various age groups up to Under 21 level, Guidetti has been selected for the full Sweden squad for their forthcoming game against Croatia.

"After Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], Sweden has not had many talented young players whom people speak about around Europe," said Djordic. "Now John is that person."

Can he make it at City, where Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and possibly Carlos Tevez are ahead of him in the forward ranks?

"That will be hard," said Djordic. "He'd probably be better off at United where youngsters get more of a chance."

It could be City's loss, for he has many top level suitors.

sports@thenational.ae