Last chance saloon: Unlucky Guidetti must save career with Celtic move
“I’m Feyenoord til I die, I know I am, I’m sure I am, I’m Feyenoord til I die,” he chanted in front of the stands at De Kuip, dressed in jeans and a jacket. He belted the words out with gusto, singing with his half-white heart, waving goodbye to the fans. His time at the club was over. It was just one season, but he acted like he was leaving his boyhood club after years of service.
John Guidetti had secured his place in the heart of Feyenoord fans, while he had become one of them himself.
The young Swedish striker had spent a season on loan at the Rotterdam giants from Manchester City, where he became an incredible success.
The cocky 19-year-old strolled into the Feyenoord training ground at the start of the 2011-12 season, immediately walking over to the stereo and changing the music blasting through the dressing room, altering the mood right away, influencing the team from the very beginning. It wouldn’t be the only time, though. Through his attitude, his work rate and his incredible ability, he lifted the squad, improved the atmosphere in the club and boosted the side a great deal.
In 23 games, the 19-year-old Swede scored an incredible 20 league goals and picked up eight assists. As the pinnacle of Feyenoord’s attack, his excellent control, pace and goalscoring ability saw him link up remarkably well with wingers Jerson Cabral and Ruben Schaken, ahead of Otman Bakkal, Karim El Ahmadi and Jordy Clasie.
Among those impressive 20 goals in the Dutch top flight were three incredible hat-tricks. The youngster made the difference against Twente with all of his side’s goals in a 3-2 win and did so again against Vitesse, powering them to a 3-1 victory. However, his crowning moment came in De Kuip when he smashed three past Ajax in a 4-2 victory, ensuring victory for the Rotterdammers over their fierce rivals for the first time in 14 attempts – something the Pride of the South haven’t done since. From then on, Guidetti was seen as a saint to most of the Feyenoord faithful.
That year, Ronald Koeman’s side came second in the league to Ajax, a remarkable improvement from the 10th place finish the previous season, and Guidetti was one of the main reasons for that incredible season.
His time in the Netherlands ended in unlikely disaster, though. He missed the last four weeks of the campaign through a “mysterious” injury. It turned out that a bout of food poisoning lead to nerve damage in his leg. Unfortunately, the youngster’s career was in serious danger.
“I ate a bit of chicken at my girlfriend’s birthday party, but it led to food poisoning,” Guidetti told The Mirror.
“It got worse when the illness led to a rare virus which badly affected my nervous system. The day after playing a game for Feyenoord I couldn’t even stand on my right leg. I just fell to the ground.
“I was taken to the University Hospital in Rotterdam and, when Man City’s club doctor, Philip Batty, turned up on my bedside I realised I was in serious danger. A professor in the hospital where I was being treated said my career was hanging by a very thin thread. I burst into tears. I saw my whole future crashing down.”
The very notion of such a bright talent’s career coming to an end while it was still in the development stages was a horrifying thought. But while his career remains intact, his development has been hindered severely and it seems more likely that he will never fulfil the great potential or reach the heights he seemed destined to during his days in the Eredivisie.
The injury ruled Guidetti out of the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, where he was expected to act as back up to the talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He made his debut for the national team during his time in Rotterdam, coming on as a substitute in a friendly against Croatia, it remains his only appearance for his country.
The striker’s final appearance in the Netherlands came in April 2012, his next appearance at club level came in January 2013 – for the Manchester City Under 21s. He would play another six games in the U21 Premier League, scoring six goals.
While City showed their faith in him, handing him a new three year deal, he has never had any real chance of making it into the first team of the big-spending Premier League giants.
A knee operation kept him out of action for the opening months of the 2013-14 season as he was subsequently named on the Manchester City bench just three times. It was clear he had to look elsewhere for first-team opportunities, despite coach Manuel Pellegrini, like Roberto Mancini before him, being impressed by his hard work and positive attitude.
In January, he opted to join Stoke City on loan, where it seemed he would be given a chance to resume his development, gain some valuable experience and put the horrifying near-two year period behind him. It didn’t work out that way, however, as Guidetti would go on to make just six appearances for Mark Hughes’ side, each one as a late substitute.
Reports of a spat between he and his new manager suggested he had been the architect of his own downfall at the Britannia Stadium or that he was at least unlucky, but the player denied disrespecting the Welshman and the benefits of his time in the red and white seemed minimal.
Throughout the summer, Guidetti was linked to a move away from Eastlands. Feyenoord, having just sold star striker Graziano Pelle, were said to be interested. The club’s fans still hold him in extremely high regard and he has always been a player many fans would love to have back. As Ronald Koeman said in his farewell speech at the end of last season, once you are a Feyenoorder, you are always a Feyenoorder. This is perfectly illustrated in the seemingly unconditional love a lot of fans have for the Swede who spent just one season in that famous red and white jersey. Sadly for Guidetti, though, the reunion never materialised as the club made contact with the player’s representatives but eventually backed out of a move.
As the season got underway, it looked evident the once promising striker was doomed to spend another season wasting away in Manchester.
Celtic, however, came to his rescue on transfer deadline day as a move for their main target Stefan Scepovic seemed to fall flat. Ronny Deila’s side came calling for the 22-year-old and he travelled to Glasgow to sort out a loan deal. Scepovic made a second u-turn in 24 hours and decided to sign for the Scottish champions. The move for Guidetti, though, looked like it had collapsed as the Glasgow club failed to get the registration papers through on time. A few days later, however, the move was given the green light and it was confirmed on Thursday.
The move is a great one for the Stockholm-born forward as he is guaranteed playing time in the Scottish Premiership. That magnificent spell in the Eredivisie was three years ago and while he is lucky to still have a career in football, it seems extremely unlikely that he will be able to reach the heights projected for him in Rotterdam. The nerve damage has left lasting effects on him and his lengthy period without first-team football will mean he is in severe need of match practice, but his hard work and determination will help him become a key player for the club and his attitude will see him become a hit with the club’s fans.
“I saw my whole future crashing down”, he said looking back at his horrifying injury. The striker has been given a chance to rebuild his career and get it back on track. Sadly, though, it could prove to be his last.