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FC Barcelona – The Rijkaard Years
Frank Rijkaard is a world-renowned football player and coach known for his simple, aggressive style of play. His tenure as manager of FC Barcelona (known simply as Barça to his fans) was marked by success and controversy.
The period in which Rijkaard was brought to FC Barcelona was a period of turmoil for the club. The last couple of years have been a major disappointment, highlighted by the comings and goings of players and managers, including the betrayal of vice-captain Luis Figo, who left the team to join rivals Real Madrid. Newly elected FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta was desperate to change the state of the team and started 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 made a name for himself as an AC Milan player years ago. Although he played for other teams before and after, he was most famous during his time as a player for AC Milan. Rijkaard was known for his aggressive style and flamboyant temperament, which brought him many victories and controversies respectively.
By the time he took the Barça managerial chair, however, he had his temper under control. He already worked in the Dutch national football team for two years, leading it to the semi-finals of Euro 2000, and for two years he led Sparta Rotterdam, where he did not do so well. This performance under the young manager seemed to light the fire as he arrived at FC Barcelona with a new target. Rijkaard was now known simply as a no-nonsense manager with little flash. He let his and his players’ actions on and off the field do the talking. They wanted to win the match in the most impressive way possible.
Although he started slowly (losing to arch-rivals Real Madrid in December 2003), Rijkaard soon turned the team around. FC Barcelona finished the 03-04 season as La Liga runners-up before Rijkaard brought in new players to complete the squad. The addition of the new roster allowed the club to win La Liga for two consecutive years in 04–05 and 05–06.
Rijkaard was the first Barca coach ever to win twice at the Santiago Barnebeu, their rival’s stomping grounds. In 2005 he was also nominated for the UEFA Team of the Year and in 2006 he was awarded the European Cup of Merit. He led the team to victory in the 2005–06 Champions League, making him only the fifth person ever to win the European Cup as both a manager and a player.
However, after these victories came a drought. The following two years were not so great for the team, culminating in a loss to Manchester United in the semi-finals of the 07–08 UEFA Champions League. After that, there was a lot of speculation about Rijkaard leaving the club due to them not winning a trophy for two years. Finally, on 8 May 2008, it was announced that Frank Rijkaard would be leaving the team at the end of the season.
Rijkaard has now been replaced by Barca B coach Josep Guardiola. Many players left the team and were replaced by 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.
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