FC Barcelona – The Rijkaard years

Frank Rijkaard is a world-renowned soccer player and manager known for his aggressive and no-nonsense style of play. His stage as coach of FC Barcelona (familiarly known by his fans simply as Barça) was marked by successes and controversies.

The period in which Rijkaard joined FC Barcelona was one of great turmoil for the club. The last few years had been very disappointing, accentuated by the coming and going of players and coaches, including the betrayal of vice-captain Luis Figo, who left the team to join rivals Real Madrid. The newly elected FC Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, desperately wanted to turn things around for the team and began by bringing in Dutchman Rijkaard as manager in 2003. Rijkaard’s appointment came as a surprise to FC Barcelona fans due to his inexperience and tarnished reputation.

Rijkaard had made a name for himself as an AC Milan player years before. Although he had played for other teams before and since, it was during his time at AC Milan that he became best known. Rijkaard was known for his aggressive style and hot temper, which brought him many victories and controversies respectively.

However, by the time he sat in the Barca coach’s chair, he had his temper under control. He had already spent two years with the Dutch soccer team, taking it to the semifinals of Euro 2000, and two years managing Sparta Rotterdam, where he did not do so well. This consistent performance seemed to light a fire in the young coach, as he came to FC Barcelona with a new purpose. Rijkaard was now known simply as a no-nonsense, low-key manager. He let his actions and those of his players speak for themselves on and off the field. They just wanted to win the match in the most impressive way possible.

Although he got off to a slow start (losing to arch-rivals Real Madrid in December 2003), Rijkaard soon turned the team around. FC Barcelona finished the 03-04 season as runners-up in La Liga before Rijkaard brought in new players to complete the team. The incorporation of the new squad allowed the club to win the League two consecutive years on 04-05 and 05-06.

Rijkaard was the first Barça coach to win twice at Santiago Barnebeu, his rival’s pitch. He was also nominated for the UEFA Team of the Year in 2005 and honored in 2006 for his contributions to the European Cup. He also led the team to victory in the 2005-06 Champions League, making him the fifth person to win the European Cup as both a manager and a player.

After these victories, however, came a drought. The next two years were not so good for the team, culminating in a loss to Manchester United in the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League semi-final. Following this, there was much speculation about Rijkaard’s departure from the club, due to their not winning a trophy for two years. Finally, on May 8, 2008, it was announced that Frank Rijkaard would leave the team at the end of the season.

Rijkaard has now been replaced by Barca B manager Josep Guardiola. Many players have left the team and have been replaced with good prospects. What this means for the team’s future remains to be seen. With the fickle nature of football club presidents and fans, it remains to be seen how Guardiola will measure up to his predecessors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *