Sat, May 10, 2008 - Page 18 News List

LFP: Rijkaard is sacked by Barca, Guardiola to take his place

AFP , MADRID

Less than 24 hours after their humiliating 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico, Barcelona have announced that the club's reserve team coach Pep Guardiola, a former player, will take over from Frank Rijkaard at the end of the season.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta announced the news on Thursday at a press conference as Rijkaard paid the price for two years without a trophy.

“The administration of the club has decided that at the end of this season Frank Rijkaard will cease to be the coach of Barcelona and the position will be occupied by Josep Guardiola,” Laporta said. “He [Rijkaard] has had success, but unfortunately in the last two seasons the luck has not been with us.”

The 37-year-old Guardiola is a former Barca captain, making over 250 appearances for the club between 1990 and 2001 and winning six league titles and the 1992 Champions League in the process. His managerial experience is limited, but the club regard him highly and resisted the temptation to go for a more experienced coach like former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

“Guardiola has the knowledge, the ambition and the self-confidence to be successful,” Laporta said.

Rijkaard, a world-class player with Ajax and AC Milan, joins Mourinho in looking for a job this summer after five seasons at the Camp Nou.

Rijkaard arrived at Barca in 2003 — when the club was in a transitional period — after managerial spells with Sparta Rotterdam and the Dutch national team. After a difficult start the Dutchman won successive league titles in 2005 and 2006 when they also won the Champions League with a 2-1 win over Arsenal.

But last season things started to go awry and Barca gifted the title to Real and their misery continued this season as they allowed Real to cruise to the title again.

Barca must also qualify for the Champions League next season after surrendering second place to Villarreal. A second successive season without silverware saw Barca fans waving their handkerchiefs at Rijkaard’s team and the board decided to take action.

Guardiola inherits a talented team, including youngsters such as Lionel Messi and Bojan Krkic, but there are sure to be summer exits as Guardiola looks to make his mark.

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