FC Barcelona – The Rijkaard Years

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

The period in which Rijkaard was brought into FC Barcelona was one of turmoil for the club. The past few years had been very disappointing, accentuated by players and managers coming and going, including the betrayal of vice-captain Luis Figo, who left the team to join their rivals Real Madrid. Newly elected FC Barcelona’s new 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’s fans due to his inexperience and tarnished reputation.

Rijkaard had made a name for himself as a player for AC Milan years earlier. Although he had played for other teams before and after, it was during his tenure as a player for AC Milan that he was most known. Rijkaard was known for his aggressive style and hot-headed temperament, which brought him many victories and controversy, respectively.

By the time he sat in Barça’s manager’s chair, however, he had his temper under control. He had already done two years at the Netherlands national football team, leading them to the Euro 2000 semi-finals, and two years managing Sparta Rotterdam, where he did not fare so well. This so-so performance seemed to light a fire under the young manager, as he came into FC Barcelona with a new purpose. Rijkaard was now known simply as a no-nonsense manager with little flash. He let his and his players’ actions speak for themselves on and off the field. They were just out to win the match in the most impressive manner possible.

Though 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 La Liga runners-up before Rijkaard brought in new players to round out the team. The addition of the new roster allowed the club to go to win La Liga for two consecutive years in 04-05 and 05-06.

Rijkaard was the first Barca coach to ever win twice at Santiago Barnebeu, their rival’s stomping grounds. He was also nominated for UEFA’s Team of the Year in 2005 and honored in 2006 for his contributions to the European Cup. He also managed the team to a victory in the 2005-06 Champions League, which made him only the fifth person ever to win the European Cup both as a manager and a player.

After these victories, however, came a drought. The following two years were not so great for the team, culminating in a loss to Manchester United in the Semi-Final of the ’07-’08 UEFA Champions League. There was much speculation after this about Rijkaard leaving the club, due to them not winning a trophy for two years. Finally, on May 8, 2008, it was announced that Frank Rijkaard would be leaving the team at the end of the season.

Rijkaard has now been replaced with Barca B coach Josep Guardiola. Many players have left the team and have been replaced with good prospects. What this means for the future of the team has yet 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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