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Rijkaard nudges Chelsea as Barca axe looms

Frank Rijkaard insists that he has no plans to quit Barcelona but that did not stop him highlighting his credentials as a purveyor of the beautiful game to potential employers that include Chelsea's Roman Abramovich.

A Champions League semi-final defeat by Manchester United here on Tuesday has left Barca's coach facing the sack at the end of another trophy-less season but it is certain the amiable and articulate Dutchman will not be without work for long.

Avram Grant may have guided Chelsea to within sight of both the Premier League and Champions League trophies but even his closest friends would not claim that he has got close to delivering the fluid, attacking football that Abramovich craved sufficiently to ditch Jose Mourinho one month into the season.

Silverware may yet save Grant's skin but the odds on there being a vacancy at Stamford Bridge this summer remain short, and Rijkaard looks increasingly like the favourite to fill it.

In that context, it was notable that, in the wake of Tuesday's defeat, he opted to qualify his praise for English clubs' current domination of the Champions League with an expression of regret that they do not play with more flair. Rijkaard regrets that the entertainment value of England's domestic competitions is not matched by performances of the country's leading clubs in Europe.

“Results are very important of course, but I think they also have a lot more to give on the pitch to the public,” he said.

“Their style is different in Europe and that is why it is successful. I think it started with the foreign coaches who have organised things very well and they have great players.

“But sometimes it is a pity because it is not the most beautiful way of football.”

“The level of the English teams now is very high,” Rijkaard acknowledged. “If it were not for the fact they had to play against each other, we could easily have seen four teams in the semis.

“They are very difficult to beat, very strong and very disciplined. In European games they all get behind the ball when they lose it, they are very well organised and play on the counter attack. It is really tough to beat English teams.”

Despite that gracious acknowledgement of how the balance of power in European football has shifted,Sir Alex Ferguson, did not dispute Rijkaard's suggestion that United's tactics over the two legs of the semi-final had been cautious, admitting he had stressed to his players the importance of denying Barca space in midfield.

The tactic worked well with the Catalans largely restricted to shots from outside the box in both legs of the tie.

“If you try and meet them too early they can open you up because they always have an extra man in midfield,” Ferguson reflected. “I think what Frank means is that we did not go hell for leather, trying to defend too early. I think he would have liked that if we had.”

Rijkaard's removal from the hot seat at the Nou Camp is now regarded as inevitable in Catalonia, but the Dutchman insisted he would not walk away from the club he guided to Champions League glory three years ago.

“That thought has not entered my head,” he insisted. “I have no intention of leaving.

“It would be a different case if the players were saying it was time to go but that is not the case. Barcelona are a massive club and there are people to take the decisions at the end of the season if decisions need to be taken.”

Rijkaard admitted his side's lack of a cutting edge had cost them the chance of a place in next month's final in Moscow.

“We did everything but score,” he said. “It was a very even game, if anything we had the better of the play. But the rules are that the team that scores goes through and they did that.”

Wed 30 April, 2008
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1 Comment:

  1. Van Basten says:

    Barca’s biggest problem the past 2 seasons, especially this season, is that they have players who are two similar and doesn’t bring anything new to the team. For instance, when you look at their midfield (besides Toure), Iñesta, Xavi, Deco, & Bojan are too similar in their style of play. All are very short players too, which makes their midfield quite small. In fact the whole team’s average size is small compared to the other top team in Europe.

    I would prefer that they brought in at least 1 different player instead of the ones mentioned that brings something extra to the table like speed, going forward, and length.

    Finally, their style of play is not that “unique” any more and most teams in Spain have already figured out how to match and play Barca’s formation. Barca play the same both at home and away, and too much passing & possession in front of the opponent’s goal seems to have backfired on them a bit. I bet if they were more direct and decisive as Man Utd in their attacks, it would have achieved better results for them.

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