Sunday, June 24, 2018
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Guardiola Must Escape Rijkaard's Shadow

On this day there have been two declarations concerning Barcelona's last two managers. Yes, that's correct- two. All the attention will be on Pep Guardiola and the sudden announcement that he is the new manager-in-waiting of Bayern Munich, but hang on a minute and focus your attention on his predecessor at the Nou Camp... Frank Rijkaard.



The Dutchman also makes the news today; for being sacked from his role as manager of Saudi Arabia. Did you even realise that he has been in charge of the Asian nation? Well you do now, in fact he had been since June 2011 (catch up!).


The point is that if you remember back to 2008, Rijkaard (like Guardiola) was similarly lauded around Europe for his tenure as boss of Barcelona. The praise for Guardiola has been justifiably more universal, but when you consider Rijkaard's path since Barca, then there should still be an air of caution over the future of Pep's managerial career.


Many in the British press had assumed that Guardiola's positive comments about English football, for the FA's 150th anniversary birthday bash (also today), were a sign that he would be next seen warming a bench in the Premier League. No doubt that will still happen in the next few years, but for now it has only served as a reported red-herring.


So, Guardiola will take over from the colossal Jupp Heynckes at the end of this season. Like José Mourinho, he has earned a reputation that will only allow him to move between the biggest clubs in Europe. However, unlike the 'special one', he is yet to prove that he is more than a 'one-hit wonder'.


The harshest critics will suggest that Guardiola couldn't have failed to do his job at Barcelona, but as with Harry Redknapp's comments about the Chelsea job recently, that isn't really fair. Managers have to motivate, devise tactics and (depending on how hands-on they are) do all those things behind the scenes that we do not see.


Besides, to paraphrase Harry, there have been many examples of a heralded manager being 'a dope' and 'messing up' a top job. See Guus Hiddink's time at Real Madrid as just one example.


Hiddink quickly recovered his honour, and has since built upon it (he is due to retire at the end of this season), but there are other managers who have never quite recovered from a large hit to their reputation. This is where Frank Rijkaard now seems to be placed on the managerial treadmill, and where Guardiola could potentially still end up if his German exchange was to go really, badly wrong.


When Rijkaard made his bittersweet departure from Barcelona, the expectancy was (like Guardiola) that he would most likely be head-hunted by Premier League clubs. But the call never materialised, and the Dutchman's next role came with Galatasary- a decent club but not what was once expected.


His first season in charge (2009-10) saw the team finish 3rd in Süper Lig, an improvement of two places from the previous campaign. However, in his 2nd season in charge, four losses from the first eight games led to him leaving 'by mutual consent'. He may have had an overall win record of over 60%, but the experience of Turkish football had ultimately stained his credentials in the eyes of others.


Roll on to June 2011 and Rijkaard's next opportunity materialised with the financially lucrative Saudi Arabia Football Federation. Alas, culminating in today's announcement, there has been no positive re-emergence of Rijkaard the manager. Instead there was failure in World Cup 2014 qualifying (to Australia), and the final straw came with the elimination from the Gulf Cup last weekend.


That is a tournament that had seen the Saudis as losing finalists in the last two editions, so the group stage defeats to Iraq and Kuwait may possibly have signaled the death knell to Rijkaard's managerial aspirations. A sad decline for the former Champions League winning coach.


So what about Pep? As mentioned before his stock is higher than Frank's was after Barcelona, plus he seems to be practically everyone's best friend. Having steered the team that has been garnished with more eulogising than any other, and having not yet upset anyone bar Mourinho, Guardiola has at least one major failure allowed in him.


It may well be that he won't need to cash in any of his credit at all, and that he will live up to the huge levels of expectancy we all have after the Nou Camp years. Whatever happens the football world will be waiting with bated breath, and if Guardiola survives 3 years in Munich, that may finally coincide with a certain retirement at Old Trafford...


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