The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has fired Frank Rijkaard, after his side’s dismal showing at the Gulf Cup, the region’s top tournament.
Rijkaard once had the football world at his feet. He was the man that took over at Barcelona and introduced the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Valdes and a baby-faced 17 year old Lionel Messi to the world.
Add to that the signings of Deco, Eto’o and Ronaldinho, and one can see how the now formidable Barcelona side of today was forged from the fire that Rijkaard set alight.
In his third season at the Camp Nou, Rijkaard had not only established the now famous tiki-taka style of football which is so admired by the international football fraternity, he also won the La Liga and Champions League double.
Rijkaard’s fading light is highlighted even more when contrasted with Pep Guardiola, his successor at Barcelona. On the very same day that Rijkaard was sacked, Guardiola signed for Bayern Munich.
Both men had three good seasons at Barcelona, but the main difference between them was that Guardiola knew when to quit and Rijkaard didn’t.
Rijkaard’s fourth season was beset by rumors that he had lost the dressing room and was promptly sacked at the end of it. The same thing began to happen to Guardiola, but he had already decided, at the beginning of the season, to leave, and so kept his reputation intact.
The similarities do not end there: Both of them took a sabbatical after leaving Barcelona. The difference, though, was that Rijkaard took on Galatasaray, which is a big club, but not what anyone would call a European super club, and had a miserable time of it.
Guardiola, on the other hand, took a year’s sabbatical, in New York, studied English, and waited for the right offer. It was assumed, probably because he was learning English, that he would join either Chelsea or Manchester city. Yet it was no real surprise when instead he opted for Bayern Munich.
Rijkaard deserves much credit for creating the modern day Barcelona team and all that entails. However, he is not a favorite football man in my eyes, owing to the vile act of spitting twice in the hair of Rudi Voller, in a 1990 World Cup match between Holland and Germany.
So, for me, it’s just a case of what goes around, comes around, Mr Rijkaard.