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21.06.2007 13:54

“I’m really excited about continuing”

Sandra Sarmiento

Frank Rijkaard gave an exclusive interview to Barça TV and fcbarcelona.com in South Africa in which he took stock of the season just finished and looked ahead to the challenges of the next.

Training begins again for the players in a month’s time but meanwhile manager Frank Rijkaard will continue working improving the squad and preparing for the new season. In this exclusive interview with Barça TV and fcbarcelona.com, he reveals his thoughts on the disappointments of the season just finished and the challenges of the one to come.

Do you understand the disappointment of the fans this season?

“Yes, of course. It’s not just a disappointment for the fans but for us as well – players, club, directors and coaches”.

How do you explain that we only won two trophies when we aspired to seven? 

DSC00582.JPG“Seven trophies is something that comes from outside the club. I always say that we have to make a good impression. And have the mentality. If we manage this, there are more possibilities of winning important things. To sum up, it hasn’t been a season in which we’ve made the impression we would have liked”.

The team was on the verge of winning the World Club Championship, of getting to a Cup final, of winning the league. But at the decisive moments they failed”.

“There are reasons, but looking back and looking for excuses, I as manager have to take the responsibility. I believe we have a lot of reasons to carry on working and keep Barça at the highest level. But looking back I think that perhaps the Intercontinental Cup was a sign. And all season we’ve suffered. For various reasons. Sometimes we have performed below our level”.


“For various reasons. You can include injuries, also the group dynamic, the way of working, which is my responsibility, the pre-season, all these things. Players who, at certain moments, practically didn’t have the mental or physical strength to carry out their job. But I’m saying it clearly, I take responsibility and it’s not my way to accuse or point the finger. The clearest message it that we’ve experienced this and we know exactly what we don’t want and I believe we have to take action so that the fans are happy again with the team”.

Madrid has been better than Barça? In what way?

QM3D1355.jpg“We tied on points. We scored more goals and conceded fewer. But in the two head-to-heads they had the advantage. But that doesn’t mean they were better. I believe everyone knows that Barça has the better team but I think that they played more as a team and better as a team than us, especially in the second half of the season. But that doesn’t mean they have a better squad or better players. But it has to be recognised that by fighting together and getting results they have played better as a team”.

When you say they played better as a team are you referring to the unity in the dressing room?

“I can’t say anything about the Madrid dressing room. Getting results is often down to things that can’t be seen. Often it’s that dynamic, that energy that there is within a squad, the relationship between coaching staff and the manager. That leads to the team getting the result it wants…or not”.

The president talked about a lack of commitment and responsibility on the part of the players. Do you agree?

DSC00578.JPG“It’s clear that the president has to say things as he sees them. At a certain moment that’s good because we all know that we have failed this season and you can also speak more clearly in this sense. I understand it perfectly and he has every right to do so. But on the other hand, for me, accusing my players would be too easy. I’m working with them and in that sense, not that I feel more important, but I’m the man who has to manage the players and demand that they do their job. I prefer to accuse myself while being aware that that I do everything that I can and not accusing the players. Players do what you let them do. That’s simple and clear. I have to start a season and make things clear and make the players behave the way we want. All the players in the squad are good people and didn’t want to go through this. So for the players who keep on working, next season will be a big motivation”.

Have the players been given too much licence?

12-06-07_WEB_01.jpg“There are also things that you only realise much later. Things that have happened. Behaviour. When I’m on top of things and I know what’s going on I can take steps easily. Because I believe it’s the responsibility of each one of us to behave well and live for sport. And to live so that we are in a condition to make our membership happy. Not every bit of news gets to me straight away. Sometimes there were things I didn’t know and others time yes”.

Have the players taken advantage of the famous ‘self-management’?

“Self-management is a good thing but you can only achieve it when there is a squad that is prepared to live with that responsibility. At certain moments the group needs specific guidelines for behaviour. You teach this, you indicate the way and when people listen and work well you can move back to self management. You always need a line to follow and it’s best when the team take that responsibility with common sense and then you can distance yourself a bit more. But there are moments when you have to determine how we want to act”.

The president says there’s going to be an internal code of behaviour. Does that mean self-management was a mistake?

“I don’t believe in making mistakes. Or in what’s good and what’s bad. There are just things that happen. So what are you going to do? You have to take action. That’s seems normal to me. From the Board down there are official events, there are important responsibilities and everyone has to obey this code, without exceptions. Without excluding players, coaches or directors. And these are the things that represent the philosophy of a club. It seems correct to me”.

Can Rijkaard be nasty when necessary? 

30-05-07_web_03.jpg"What’s being nasty? When there’s a situation you have to act. And for some people taking action might seem nasty, for others not. I believe we have to lay down the guidelines for the dressing room and that’s the code. And when you have to correct something, you have to do it. I don’t know if that’s being nasty or not. Doing things that are correct for the spirit of the team. What I definitely don’t do is act because there’s a person who says I must behave in a particular way. And that doesn’t mean that I’m hiding. When I have to act I don’t have any problem doing so. But thinking about my players, about respect. That’s the basis of all decisions”.

You were talking about responsibilities. Where did the coaching staff go wrong?

10-06-07_WEB_09.jpg“All the decisions I’ve made were made thinking they were for the best. We have to supervise a little more everyone’s general behaviour and work together so that the unit functions. And when we talk about making mistakes. Where? In team selection? I don’t think so because we always take those decisions believing that it’s best for the team. In general, looking back, it’s not always the team with the most quality and talent that succeeds. And that’s the most important criticism we can make of ourselves. We have to work on that aspect. And that’s what we want to do”.

Is it the end of a cycle? 

“Every team in football internationally – how many years are they at the highest level with the same squad? Generally speaking, three or four years and then there are changes. Simple changes. That might mean there are some players that haven’t always featured in the starting line-up and we can’t complain about the attitude, but it’s pretty normal that after two or three years on the subs bench, at a certain moment you lose your strength. And those are details you have to change. Once again there’s a new dynamic, energy, with new players, players from the youth teams, who increase team spirit. Everyone has to accept his position. Everyone has to be really motivated”.

Are you excited about continuing? 

“Yes. I’m really excited about continuing. When you finish the season you notice the tiredness. But it’s a pity we don’t have time to continue and put things right in this league. To react and demonstrate that we are a great club. Unfortunately that’s not the case but that generates a lot of excitement about change details, to improve once again the dynamic of the dressing room. It gives you the feeling that that you want to start right now”.

Does Rijkaard want Eto’o and Ronaldinho to stay together in Barça?

QM3D6813.jpg“Yes, but that’s something I’ve always said. They’re great players. They’re wanted by a great many teams around the world and for good reasons. They’re tremendous figures. I’d like to continue with them but now we also have to indicate how we have to work with them as well. We have to treat all players the same. But I’ve got a lot of confidence that these two players can continue to mean a great deal for the club. I’ve got confidence so let’s see”.

Will they accept this new code of behaviour?

“Yes, because it’s simple. It’s not as if my attitude is going to change. But if the same detail doesn’t change, we’ll talk and take decisions. That doesn’t just mean those two but the whole squad”.

“I’m really excited about continuing”

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The positive side
Was there anything positive in the season?

“I liked the way Puyol behaved as captain. I think that at times he felt alone. Shouting in the desert to maintain team spirit and that’s an important matter that has to be corrected. I’m going to work to achieve that. ‘Puyi’ suffered a lot. He lives and breaths Barça and has done everything to keep a balance. Then Andrés Iniesta. He’s a great player and a great person. He’s played at a really high level. And Messi has had his explosive moments and demonstrated all his talent. These are things for us to be happy about.

In general, I think we can’t get rid of a feeling of disappointment. But that can even be important because we know what we want and that’s an added motivation to continue. I’d almost say, and don’t misunderstand me, that winning the league was what we wanted a great deal. But perhaps that covered things up a bit. And now things are clearer than ever. There are no excuses. It’s difficult for me to say but in the final analysis I like it to be clear what we haven’t achieved. We can’t look back with pride. And that must serve to motivate us.

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