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De Boer out to emulate Koeman

Published: Tuesday 23 April 2002, 9.43CET
In his final season at FC Barcelona, Frank de Boer would like nothing more than to follow the example set by Ronald Koeman in 1992.
Published: Tuesday 23 April 2002, 9.43CET

De Boer out to emulate Koeman

In his final season at FC Barcelona, Frank de Boer would like nothing more than to follow the example set by Ronald Koeman in 1992.

FC Barcelona's only success so far in Europe's most prestigious club competition came via the boot of a Dutch defender and, as his farewell gift to the Camp Nou, Frank de Boer would like nothing more than to follow the example set by Ronald Koeman in 1992.

Final opportunity
A month short of his 32nd birthday, De Boer's opportunities to lift the UEFA Champions League trophy a second time - he was part of the AFC Ajax team who beat Milan AC in 1995 - are diminishing and having confirmed that he is to leave the Catalan club at the end of the season this is his final opportunity to do it with Barcelona.

Intense rivalry
First, though, he can look no further than tonight's titanic clash with Real Madrid CF, a semi-final first leg between Spain's biggest clubs who have shared an intense rivalry for 100 years. There is a political sub-text to this game as well with Catalans bitterly opposed to the capital city and all Madrid stands for.

Barcelona's solitary success
When comparing trophy cabinets, however, Barcelona have no choice but to defer: in their centenary season Madrid are chasing their ninth European Champion Clubs' Cup while Barcelona still yearn to add to their solitary success achieved by Koeman's free-kick goal against UC Sampdoria at Wembley.

Testing occasion
On De Boer, Abelardo Fernández and their fellow defenders' shoulders rests the responsibility to ensure Barcelona do not go to the Santiago Bernabeú stadium for next week's return having conceded a home goal. With Zinedine Zidane ready to provide the ammunition for Raúl González it could be a testing occasion for De Boer, though he expects Madrid's poor record in this stadium to dictate an approach which emphasises caution at the expense of adventure.

Unbeaten run
"In the league match here last month Madrid played with more midfielders and fewer strikers and I feel that will also be the case this time," he said. That game ended 1-1 with Barcelona on the back foot throughout the first half and fortunate to have defended an unbeaten run against Madrid at Camp Nou which stretches back to 1983.

Missing players
Barcelona will be without Rivaldo and Carles Puyol through injury while Madrid are missing the suspended Luis Figo and the injured Fernando Morientes. De Boer said they would naturally miss Rivaldo "because of his quality" and Puyol "because he has been in really good shape" but said the squad was strong enough to cope.

'Big prize'
It has been a season when the famous blue-and-maroon shirts have fallen short of the towering standards demanded even though they emerged as winners in both group sections of the Champions League. This is their final chance of success and their Dutch contingent cannot even set their sights on the FIFA World Cup as a summer target. For De Boer this provides extra motivation rather than additional pressure. "The Champions League is the best competition to win so besides saving our season it is also a big prize to aim for," he said.

Last updated: 23/04/02 21.46CET

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