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08.05.2008 21:05

The man who won our second Champions League

Jésús Carrillo

Frank Rijkaard, the manager that has spent the third longest time at FC Barcelona after Johan Cruyff (1988-1996) and Jack Greenwell (1917-1924) will always be remembered for winning the second Champions League.

In five years at the helm of the club, Rijkaard has collected wealth of honours in 1 Champions League, 2 Leagues and 2 Spanish Super Cups. That is a balance that will go down in club history, and the man himself will always be remembered for being honourable, friendly and thoroughly dedicated to the club.

New project and new hope

Rijkaard_y_grup_entrenant_22-4-04.jpgThe former Holland manager and an ex player for AC Milan and Ajax was presented by Joan Laporta in the summer of 2003 after the club elections. There was an element of risk, for the Dutchman was fairly inexperienced and had never managed a club like Barça, but in his first year he led the club to the runners-up spot, and a Champions League berth, after the club had gone four years without any major titles and with an ever-changing playing system.

First league title

The fans were more than happy with the run in to the end of his first season in charge, and players were signed of the calibre of Deco, Eto’o, Edmilson, Silvinho, Larsson, Giuly and Belletti, and Barça stormed almost unchallenged to the league championship. Rijkaard’s squad were able to celebrate the title with three games to spare, and also had the best goals for and against records in the tournament. But they went out of the Champions League in the second round to Chelsea.

The double

bf1f2480.jpgThe next season, with only two new signings (Van Bommel and Ezquerro) Barça and Rijkaard enjoyed their finest hour. The second consecutive league title was won, and then came the much awaited Champions League in 2006. But it was not just the titles, (which also included a Super Cup won against Betis), but also the great moments like the 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabéu and the 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.

Team to beat

In 2006/07, FC Barcelona were expected to mount challenges in the league and Champions League once again. It all started well with a Super Cup won against local rivals Espanyol, but they missed out on the European Super Cup against Sevilla in Monaco and also came back from the World Clubs Cup disappointed after losing in the final to Internacional of Porto Alegre. Two months later, despite being league leaders, Barça crashed out of the Champions League to Liverpool.

Barça also missed out on the Copa del Rey final after a freak semi final defeat to Getafe, and in the league Real Madrid started regaining ground after Barça had gone into what had looked like an unassailable lead. Rijkaard was forced to go without the injured Eto'o and Messi for much of the season, and ended the campaign second, despite having the same number of points as the champions, Real Madrid.

Fifth and final year

Four prestigious players were brought in for this season (Henry, Gabi Milito, Touré Yaya and Eric Abidal), and the challenge was to rebuild the side after the major letdown of the previous year. But Barça's league performances were at best irregular, and in the Champions League, the side marched all the way to the semi finals, but yet another English side proved their undoing, this time Manchester United at Old Trafford. A great cup run beating the likes of Sevilla and Villarreal, was also cut short by eventual champions Valencia in yet another semi final exit.
The man who won our second Champions League
Second most games as manager
In his five years, Rijkaard has set some impressive records. After Cruyff, with 306 games as manager, Rijkaard will have managed Barça for 190 league games.

Of his 188 games, Rijkaard has won 111, drawn 45 and lost 32. He has been involved in 41 Champions League games, winning 25 and losing just 6.

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