England coach Sven Goran-Eriksson has admitted he was shocked at being caught out in an embarrassing tabloid sting in which he made indiscreet comments about several senior players, his agent said.
Eriksson told an undercover News of the World reporter -- posing as a rich Arab -- he would quit as England coach if the team won the World Cup, and suggested he would be prepared to become manager of Aston Villa as part of a takeover bid.
In the newspaper's report the Swede referred to Rio Ferdinand as "lazy," described Wayne Rooney as having a "temper" and coming from "a poor family," and suggested David Beckham was "a bit frustrated" at Real Madrid.
He also commented on Michael Owen's position at Newcastle United after the England striker's ?17 million (US$29.9 million) transfer from Real Madrid.
Eriksson claims he has "no problem" with his star players and insists he has not embarrassed them, but his assistant Tord Grip admitted the expose had come as a shock to his fellow Swede.
Grip told BBC Sport on Monday: "He has been through a lot of things, but this was something very special, because it was a real set-up. But I know that Sven is okay and he's fully committed to the job. It was a shock for him, this one. It's not nice, because then you can't trust anybody and you don't trust what they are writing either."
"You never know if it is true or not. It's strange that they do things like that. They had planned it for several months. He was a little bit shocked when he realized it was a set-up, but now it's okay. He has spoken to them [the players] and he's rather relaxed about the media. It's no problem at the moment," Grip said.
* On Rio Ferdinand: "Lazy."
* On Wayne Rooney: "[Has a] temper."
* On David Beckham: "A bit frustrated [at Real Madrid.]"
Eriksson was also taped talking about lucrative job possibilities even though he is under contract until 2008.
His employers the English Football Association were quick to issue a strong message of support but this latest slip-up has caused disquiet among some of its members.
Two senior sources connected to the FA have confirmed that had the revelations emerged immediately after the World Cup instead of before it, the FA may have reacted differently.
One member of the FA's International Committee told PA Sport: "If you want the fame and fortune that goes with the job you have to accept the responsibility that goes with it. It's not the first time is it? The last thing we want though is for there to be any unease within the England squad ahead of the World Cup and let's hope, with the action that has been taken, that proves not to be the case."