Frank Rijkaard will leave FC Barcelona on 30 June to be replaced as coach by Josep Guardiola, the club's former midfield player and current coach of Barcelona B.
Rijkaard's position in the Camp Nou hot seat has been the subject of intense speculation so today's announcement by Barcelona president Joan Laporta comes as little surprise. Guardiola was widely considered the outstanding candidate to succeed the 45-year-old Dutchman.
Laporta announced the decision saying that, after two seasons without a trophy, it was time for a change despite the fact Rijkaard has a year left on his contract. "Rijkaard has done a great job and has been an excellent servant to the club. We will remember him as the coach who led the team into a new era and who brought us the Champions League title in Paris. With him, we became European champions for a second time and also won two Spanish titles. His record has been exceptional and it shouldn't be overshadowed by any recent results. Rijkaard has made history here."
Guardiola, for so long (including 263 Primera División matches) the Blaugrana's talismanic midfielder, will take the reins despite his relative inexperience as a coach. The 37-year-old has, however, steered Barcelona's B team to the top of their section of Spain's fourth division this term. Laporta said the appointment of 'Pep' would guarantee "the continuity of the footballing vision which has brought us success", adding that Guardiola will bring the necessary "contacts, enthusiasm and self-confidence" to the role.
Rijkaard has been at the helm since the start of the 2003/04 campaign having previously coached the Netherlands and Sparta Rotterdam. He has two more league matches this season, as third-placed Barcelona take on RCD Mallorca and Real Murcia CF, before Guardiola, the former Camp Nou ball boy, becomes head coach. Barcelona exited the UEFA Champions League in the semi-finals, losing to Manchester United FC, and were defeated 4-1 by newly crowned champions Real Madrid CF on Wednesday.
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