Johnny Ertl: From Portsmouth skipper to working with Brazil superstar Neymar

A work colleague of Neymar and the face of Austria's Premier League coverage, Johnny Ertl continues to defy footballing convention.

Monday, 31st December 2018, 10:55 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 11:17 am
Johnny Ertl works with Neymar at Red Bull Neymar Jrs Five - a global urban five-a-side tournament

As a reliable central midfielder and occasional centre-half, he was the dependable bedrock amid dressing room turbulence during the bleakest of Fratton Park eras.

Yet the infectiously-enthusiastic Ertl's desire to diversify has prompted a noticeable stepping out of sync with his profession.

An ongoing reinvention kicked off with a masters in business administration, followed by an MBA in corporate governance during Blues playing days.

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Former Pompey skipper Johnny Ertl in his role as pundit for Austrian TV station Puls4

Upon retirement, then followed election to Pompey Supporters' Trust board, at that stage the club's majority shareholder during a pivotal period of fan ownership.

Now, three-and-a-half years since Fratton playing days ended, Ertl has re-established himself in his Austrian homeland.

The 36-year-old serves as a pundit for Puls 4, a free terrestrial channel possessing the rights to live Premier League and Europa League fixtures.

Then there's his role as international project leader and sporting director at Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five, labelled the world's biggest urban five-a-side tournament.

Employment which sees him work closely with the most expensive player in football's history.

'˜My wife, Selma, was pregnant with our first child and after eight years in England we needed to get back to the city where I grew up and also be closer to my parents,' said Ertl.

'˜When you have a professional career abroad you don't see your parents that much and we thought maybe it was time to plant our roots in Austria, see where the life is.

'˜Then one of my three best men called me and said 'Look, Red Bull have a new sporting concept and need a sporting director and a project leader. Would you be interested?'.

'˜That was in May 2016 and it is something I still feel so passionate about and really enjoy.

'˜Neymar Jr is very much involved in the project, it's his signature event together with his best four friends.

'˜He has been a Red Bull athlete since playing for Santos in Brazil, recruited after they saw the potential and wanted to support him throughout his career.

'˜Over the years we have developed a really strong and professional relationship with him, his family and his management. They are all lovely people, where family is the most important thing.

'˜Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five spreads the word and love for football that Neymar Jr has around the globe. When he was young he played a lot of small-sided games, five-a-side matches in the favelas of Praia Grande and also futsal. The sporting concept of the tournament is tailor-made how he plays football.

'˜Our concept is unique and has a special twist. When one team scores, the opposition lose a player. There is no goalkeeper and the game is very fast and technical. The bottom line is: Play football and have fun with your friends. Our slogan is '˜Outplay them All'.

'˜In 2018, more than 60 countries took part across six continents, making it the biggest urban five-a-side football tournament in the world.

'˜Neymar Jr is very proud of his event. He's a very nice young man with a natural talent being in-front of the camera. Whenever we shoot (film) he is very professional and positive.

'˜Working together with him and his family is brilliant.'

It was at Fratton Park where Ertl's playing career reached closure in July 2015.

His contract cancelled by mutual consent with new boss Paul Cook, it signalled the end of a three-year stay consisting of 88 matches and two goals.

The club captain was named The News/Sports Mail's Player of the Season in 2012-13 '“ and was a key presence in Andy Awford's successful battle to keep the club in the Football League the following season.

Aside from work for Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five, Ertl is also involved in Austrian television as pundit for Puls 4 during live coverage of the Premier League.

'˜After my career it was about finding a way, what is out there, a different perspective, but still involved in football,' the former Palace man added.

'˜I have managed to build up a really good profile in Austria and Europe. In England I played in League One and League Two with Pompey, so wasn't a Premier League player, but now I'm a TV expert in Austria.

'˜I am a summariser, I have a board and say things like 'Okay, this is the back four, they drop deep', just talking about the game in a really relaxed atmosphere. We have a Europa League studio sponsored by beer, so there is beer on the table and we chat and have people on.

'˜I need to have an opinion and see it with my experience. I can't say 'I don't know'. Even if it's wrong or not, it doesn't really matter, I need to have an opinion.

'˜It is my honest opinion, though, you need to be authentic.

'˜When I started I was really nervous in front of the camera and wanted to put in all my knowledge and it was too much. Now I have learnt how to use the right word and what to say '“ and having a strong opinion about certain situations is most important.

'˜In my first year it was perfect because I came in and we had Liverpool against Manchester United. Playing in England for so many years means I can give the Austrians a lot of knowledge. These little personal details matters to them, giving it the personal touch.

'˜Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have taken it to a different level. You can listen to them for ages, they are very interesting.

'˜They have a super relationship, you hear how they talk with each other, discussing what effect Ederson has on a game with his kicks, it's brilliant. We don't have this time in Austria unfortunately, there are more advert breaks!'

Following the hanging up of his boots, Ertl and wife Selma left Southbourne to return to Austria, settling in Graz.

While back in their homeland, the couple had their first child, Helena, with the former midfielder stepping down from the Pompey Trust board in August 2017 to concentrate on his work commitments.

And he continues to relish the variety which characterises his footballing life.

He said: '˜Working in the media is a completely different way to how you present yourself and what you say as a player, even though I was always in front of the camera in my position as Pompey club captain.

'˜I played in England with Pompey, this club is in my heart, but now I have the chance of more international experiences, seeing structures, examining systems, going deeper and providing match analysis.

'˜I'm loving life after my time playing.'