Thaksin Shinawatra will demonstrate his softer side today by donating Manchester City's match fee for an exhibition fixture in Hong Kong to the victims of the China earthquake.
But City owner Thaksin could be ruthless with manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, whose side meet a South China Invitational XI tonight in the second and final match of their post-season tour of Asia.
The controversial former Thai prime minister is believed to be ready to relieve the Swede of his duties on the squad’s return to Manchester tomorrow.
The former England boss, who has two years remaining on his contract, reflected on a “very good year for Manchester City” in which he led the Blues to ninth place in the Barclays Premier League – their best performance in three seasons.
“I think as a club – the players, the coaches, everybody – we had a good year, a very good year,” Eriksson said.
“The start of the season was fantastic, maybe too good to be true. Second half, we were not as good as the first half.
“Looking totally, I think it was a very good year for Manchester City.”
Eriksson is believed to have met Thaksin in Bangkok following last Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Thailand Premier All-Stars as part of a review into the club, but he has remained silent on his future throughout the tour.
Whether the 60-year-old is given the opportunity to build on his first campaign as a Premier League boss remains to be seen, but he has received the support of two allies.
Claudio Ranieri, whose Juventus side meet South China after City’s match, said: “The first year it is very difficult to immediately field a good team.
“The Premier League is very hard and there are a lot of good teams.”
Ranieri, who was mired in speculation before he was replaced by Jose Mourinho as Chelsea manager in June 2004, believes Eriksson, given more time, can deliver Champions League football to Eastlands.
Asked if he thinks it would be a mistake for City to sack Eriksson, Ranieri said: “I think so. Nobody can take a team and immediately bring first position.
“I think this year, another year and a third year – I think Sven would get the team in the first four.”
Striker Darius Vassell, who made all of his 22 England appearances under Eriksson, again illustrated the City players’ support for the Swede.
“It has been a good season,” Vassell said. “We played almost out of our shells – better than what we had expected – at the start of the season.
“Towards the end we failed to keep it up, but we were still pleased with the season as a whole. I enjoyed playing under the manager, I always have done and I’m sure the other players would say the same.”