Frank Rijkaard doesn’t believe he kick-started the current era of success at Barcelona, nor does he see a ‘magic formula’ for stopping their style of play.
The Dutchman spent five years at the Camp Nou, eventually ending the club’s six-year wait for a trophy and overall winning two League titles, two Supercups and a Champions League.
“Of course, five years is a long time. We went through some tough times and some excellent ones, and it’s only natural to dwell on the positives,” he reflected to FIFA’s official website today when asked to think back to that time.
“I’m happy because I had the chance to work with a major club like Barcelona with so many star players, so I have wonderful memories of the place.”
Even with the Coach credited as the first to rely heavily on the likes of homegrown stars such as Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, he does not believe he is responsible for the shape that Barca find themselves in today.
“Definitely not. I was just passing through. I had a lot of success, of course, but whatever was achieved was due to a group effort on the part of all the players.
“That said, I must have had a good relationship with the players because otherwise I wouldn’t have won two league titles and the Champions League.
“Basically, I think it comes down to the fact that Barcelona has for many years immersed its younger players coming through the cantera in the club’s footballing philosophy, helping them create their own football culture.
“The Coach’s role is to acclimatise to this way of playing. It was easy for me because I’m Dutch and I played at Ajax, so once I felt comfortable at the club I had a wonderful time.
“It’s my belief that Barcelona are successful because they have a number of youth teams alongside the first team. They are where it begins.
“This is what should happen in Saudi Arabia [Rijkaard is currently the country’s national team Coach] for example, in terms of creating their own style of football and philosophy.
“This needs to start in the youth ranks and then we might expect some success in the future.
“Barcelona didn’t start getting results after just one year. When I arrived there they hadn’t won anything for five years. One needs patience and self-belief.”
Rijkaard was put on the spot and asked what he would do today if he found himself as a Coach coming up against La Blaugrana.
“There’s no magic formula, but you have to adapt to their style. Most of the clubs who have had success against Barcelona have relied on a highly organised and disciplined defence.
“Inter and Chelsea have both sent Barcelona out of the Champions League and then you have Real Madrid [who won La Liga in 2011/12]. You could call it the ‘Jose Mourinho recipe for success’, which he began while he was at Chelsea.
“If you play Barcelona that way 10 times, you might beat them once, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee success.”
Finally, the Dutchman was asked who he feels should win the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or.
“I’m going for Lionel Messi, because I think he's the best player on the three-man final shortlist and he's performed brilliantly this year.
“He’s an incredible person. Messi is not simply a uniquely talented footballer. He’s also strong mentally, very bright and exceptionally dedicated to his job.
“Personally speaking I enjoy watching him play and I’m deeply proud of him and what he has achieved. Quite simply, he’s the best.”