Just a few days back, one of the better writers here wrote an article titled “Mid-table Manager Syndrome” regarding the tactics of Liverpool’s present boss Roy Hodgson. Even though the article was written quite a few weeks ago, the continuance of lack lustre display by Liverpool FC in the recent times have only bore ample testimony to that fact.
However, if the history of the manager is anything to go by, Frank Rijkaard’s short spell as a manager in his past three posts, if observed carefully, he could easily be regarded as one with a “Top-team Manager Syndrome.” Failed at average clubs, highly successful at a big club.
In a manner which is in complete contrast to Roy Hodgson's, Rijkaard began his managerial career in club football in shambles—managing just four wins out of 38 matches in charge of Sparta Rotterdam, which also saw the Eredivisie club get relegated and consequently led to the sacking of Rijkaard. (Hodgson at that stage was doing wonders at Malmo, another anonymous club in Europe.)
In what could be considered as a genius of a move, Barcelona spotted Rijkaard’s abilities even within his otherwise atrocious spell at Sparta and a much better short term at the helm of the Netherlands and elected him as their manager, within one year of his sacking.
Being trained under great managers like Johan Cryuff and Rinus Michels, Frank Rijkaard proved to be a master stroke for Barcelona which just like Liverpool now had come under a fresh management and desperately needed to get back to winning ways soon.
Although, under Rijkaard, Barcelona did not get off to a flier and were close to relegation at some point. However, they bounced back and finished the season in the second place after a miraculous turn around in 2004.
Unlike Hodgson, Rijkaard utilized the potential of many talented youngsters of the academy who went on to become household names both for the club and their country e.g., Carlos Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta.
Besides this, Rijkaard also identified proper talents and bought them into the club. These players like Samuel Eto’o and Deco became very successful buys for the club as Barcelona underwent a metamorphosis of sorts to become a world beater.
There are a few who point out that after Henk ten Cate left his post at Barcelona, Rijkaard’s success rate fell badly. However, a win record of about 59 percent in about 270 odd matches as a manager of a club which badly needed stability can be considered as a pretty good record. (One must remember that Barcelona were no world force when Rijkaard took over and only had one really good player in Ronaldinho. Liverpool has both Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.)
A year after the Barcelona job, Rijkaard was offered and accepted the job at Galatasaray in Turkey. Now although considered a giant at home, Galatasaray are not really a big footballing force in Europe. And as if not suited to the job, Rijkaard could only take the club to a fourth place finish in what turned out to be his first and only season in charge of the Turkish club.
In his second year of the contract, Rijkaard’s contract was terminated on October 20, 2010, following his poor performance with club lately. Quantitively, that was four defeats in eight weeks.
Considering Liverpool as a far more successful club than Galatasaray, the Reds are the ones who should have been expected to go that way. Hodgson’s Liverpool has obtained just six points at a rate of even less than a point per game in the Premier League and that too after playing the likes of Sunderland, West Bromwich, Birmingham City and Blackpool. (Liverpool managed only five points out of the foresaid four encounters, rarely a recipe for the success Liverpool set out to achieve).
Rijkaard has already managed far more big profile squads than what Roy Hodgson has managed in his career extending to nearly 30 years and has a record of playing attacking football and building the team as a cohesive unit, whereas Hodgson’s wonder term at Fulham or elsewhere solely depended on solid defending and counter attacking.
Even though the success under any incoming manager cannot be a guaranteed thing, going through a few facts, it would be fair to say although Hodgson is reputed to be a hardworking manager, and at 63, as his former players state, he is a firm believer in re-doing things rather than innovating . Whereas Frank Rijkaard, at 48, is not only much younger and has had a pretty good experience of having managed a big club and country, unlike Hodgson, he is not a great fan of the ancient coaching and managing practices which could well be what Liverpool FC need at the moment.
Agreed that if Frank Rijkaard is considered for the job at Liverpool FC, he will not be bringing decades of experience with him as many other contenders like even Martin O’Neill and Guss Hiddink (under whom Rijkaard did stay in the capacity of assistant coach though), but then, when he joined Barcelona in July 2003, Rijkaard was (41), in simple words, a former short-term Dutch manager who had no experience managing a Top Club and who had been out of job for a year after being fired from his only club managerial post for the demise of an otherwise little known Eredivisie outfit. Impressed?
If Liverpool's new owners want to do a "Red Sox type" turnaround for Liverpool, Frank Rijkaard could just aid it by making it happen the "Barcelona-way."