EXCLUSIVE: Edgar Davids gives his unique views of Mancini (lacks people skills), Capello (tactical genius), his new job at Barnet (I'm not being paid a penny) and fashion (it's important, man)
00:00 GMT, 17 November 2012
Edgar Davids has an opinion and, as is usually the case, he is not overwhelmed by a desire to keep it to himself. This time, it's about his interviewer's choice of clothing.
'It's safe,' he says. 'But there is no adventure. You wear a suit, but you are not trying to tell me something about who you are. It lacks flair. That's not for me. You should try something, man.'
Quite a spectacle: Edgar Davids at Barnet's training ground
The assault is not entirely unexpected. Davids, once the 'Pitbull' midfielder of some of European football's greatest sides, has been talking about fashion for more than five minutes.
'It's my passion,' he says. He is the creative director of Monta, a company specialising in street soccer apparel, and was previously engaged to Olcay Gulsen, a renowned designer.
Davids on… Wilfried Zaha
When I was at Palace, he was a big talent but
nothing more. He was also developing bad habits technically and no-one was stopping him. His end product was very poor at times, but now he is really showing his talent. He has worked hard at his game.
One rumour suggests that he turned away a journalist because he was unimpressed by an outfit.
'That did not happen,' Davids says. 'If I refused to speak, it wouldn't have been because of his clothes. However, if I thought he wasn't looking sharp, I probably would have told him. Fashion is important, man.'
And yet here he is, the winner of six league titles, 12 domestic cups, the UEFA Cup and the Champions League, talking about his new life as the 39-year-old player-manager of League Two Barnet, a club in the basement of British football and rarely considered to be chic.
'I don't get paid a dime to be here,' he says.
On the ball: Davids shows off his skills
Own style: Davids passes on some advice to one of the young players
It's the summer of 2012, and a Greek neighbour has called. 'Fancy a Sunday league game' he asks. Davids has been living in north London since his days at Tottenham, but has only really played Street Soccer events since leaving Crystal Palace after a three-month stint in 2010.
Davids on… ‘the greats’
I played with the best. Zinedine Zidane made me look differently at star players. Some guys with that talent don’t work so hard or want different treatment. Not him. Man, those skills. One player people don’t ask me about but should is Ledley King. Left and right foot perfect, fast, almost never made a foul. Technically, he is so gifted. So relaxed on the ball. But those knees.
'I coached a team in Brixton – Brixton United – for a while,' he says. 'We won two cups. They are a good team, but I only coached. No playing.'
The phone call from his neighbour doesn't appeal so much.
'I said, “No, man”, but I woke up in the morning and thought, “You know what Let's kick a ball around”. 'In the first half, I was like, “OK, let's keep it simple, move it around”. But then in the second half, I said the famous words that I got in trouble for on television last week.
'I just thought, “Hey, I'm f*****g Edgar Davids. I didn't want people to go away and say, “I played against Edgar Davids, it was OK”. I wanted them to say, “I played against f*****g Edgar Davids and he was nutmegging me”.
'Man, second half, I did like six nutmegs and got one assist. We won.'
The game prompts a second phone call, this time from Tony Kleanthous, the Greek-Cypriot chairman of Barnet who has heard on the grapevine that Davids dusted off his boots.
Standing out: Davids is enjoying the challenge
Dressing down: Davids offers some style tips to our man Riath Al-Samarrai
Big job: Work continues on the new stadium in the background
Front man: Davids leads by example in training
'A friend of mine gave him my number and then I get this call,' Davids says. 'He asked if I wanted to come over for a look.
'I saw the amazing training ground and listened to his plans for the future. It worked for me.'
Davids on… Barcelona
What a team. Would I have been good enough for today’s team Absolutely. You know what it is with Barcelona They play in the half of the opponent so the space is very small and the passes are very hard. To excel, it requires those skills and I have proven I possess those skills. I can do the same as Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano.
An agreement was reached and Davids was last month named as joint manager with Mark Robson. The club were bottom of the Football League.
'I've never had a big dream to be a manager, but I'm a curious guy and I want to see if I like it. I've been doing my coaching badges, just the (UEFA) “A” Licence to go, and this was a good chance to play a few games and learn about management.
'You know, I've worked for some pretty good managers so I have a few ideas.'
SIXTY. That's the number of major league titles and cups won by the managers Davids worked under for Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Holland. Between them, they have won the Champions League/European Cup seven times and a World Cup.
'Some were good, others not so good,' Davids says. 'I try to take the good bits from them and leave the bad, but also trying to keep my own identity. I don't want to be anyone's mimic.'
Action man: Davids against Accrington Stanley on Friday night
Still a pitbull: Davids is sent off against Accrington
The list of influences includes Louis
van Gaal, Marcello Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard, Fabio
Capello, Roberto Mancini and Guus Hiddink. Hiddink sent Davids home from
Euro 96 after a radio interview in which he said the national team
manager 'should stop putting his head in some players' a***s'.
made up and got on fine after that,' Davids says. 'I don't talk about
best managers,' he adds, but does so anyway. 'Van Gaal as a trainer was
one of the best – it was incredible how well he prepared for games.
Lippi was very, very good. He knew his team, he knew how to meld
together a group and make it a team.
Davids on… London
I just love living here. It is so multicultural. I love
that diversity. In Amsterdam, we have it a lot, and it’s like that here. Any dish you want you can have — Japanese, Indian, Chinese. You can go from Asian to black to Jewish in the same neighbourhood. It is a reflection of society nowadays. It’s why I love Brixton — a melting pot.
'Capello taught me so much about systems, about 4-4-2, how to pressure and squeeze a team.
'Rijkaard is not a good trainer but he is a really good manager of
people. You can see Mancini lacks people management, big time.' He adds:
'I don't want to talk negative about somebody. I do not want to talk
about Mancini as there were not so many positive things.'
At Barnet's training ground, Davids'
management style is developing. He is 'a little frustrated' by the
standard but says that is 'the challenge that makes me come down here
for nothing'. The players call him 'Mr' or 'Sir' and he does likewise in
return. 'I told them it is out of the question to call me Edgar. I
don't want to be called boss because I told them they are their own
boss,' he says.
Results have improved quite dramatically. Friday's night's 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley meant they had picked up 11 points from the seven League Two fixtures played since Davids' arrival (they took three points from the previous 11). And the 'Pitbull' still has a bite – he was sent off in the 85th minute after receiving a second booking for a foul on James Beattie, the former Everton striker.
Graham Stack, the keeper, talks of the squad being driven upwards by a 'fear factor' from playing with 'one of the best in the world'.
Davids is content with his life. 'The feeling of stepping out to play for Barnet for the first time was the same as a Champions League match. It is just joy, an innocent joy. I love to play football and will continue as long as I feel that.
'Maybe I will love management – we will see. This is fun. But you never know. Maybe one day I will own a club. That is a possibility, too. Or maybe I will leave and go into fashion.'
With that, the interview ends and Davids gets up to leave. 'Your coat,' he says. 'Double-breasted. That's very, very safe, man.'