Wrong managerial choice could set Barcelona back 10 years
Barcelona have a tough choice to make after Tito Vilanova steps down as manager
After Friday's sad news that Tito Vilanova will have to step down from his post as manager of FC Barcelona, the announcement of his replacement is due in the coming week.
This is one of the most important decisions that those in charge at the Camp Nou will ever take, as appointing the wrong man could set the club back, a decade into the past.
The appointments of Pep Guardiola and then Vilanova himself proved that the club is keen to appoint from within when possible. Assistant Jordi Roura was even appointed as the caretaker manager when Vilanova underwent treatment for his cancer this past season, despite calls to appoint a more experienced outsider.
Roura will not be given the full-time job and his fellow Catalan assistant 'Rubi' is also unlikely to land the role, having only just arrived from Division 1 side Girona, although he attracted much praise for leading them to the playoff final.
That means a non-Barcelona man will lead the club for the first time since the 2007/08 season, when Dutchman Frank Rijkaard was in charge.
The Rijkaard and Ronaldinho era
Rijkaard's time at the helm was one of success and great disappointment. His spell started brightly with two league titles in the first three seasons as well as Champions League glory in 2006. The next two years were to prove disappointing as the side struggled to win both domestically and in Europe, despite boasting one of the best squads in history with Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Deco and Samuel Eto'o.
The performances of Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto'o were heavily criticised in the last two seasons of Rijkaard's reign, and it was no secret that the three enjoyed a party lifestyle in Barcelona, with two-time ‘Player of the Year’ Ronaldinho noticeably putting on weight.
Guardiola's clean up
The three were not in Pep Guardiola's plans when he took over in the summer of 2008, although Eto'o was given one more season before following Ronaldinho and Deco through the Camp Nou exit.
Guardiola's brave move in shipping out the talented but egoistic trio sparked a period of unprecedented success. That strong and bold manager is now long gone and a certain young Brazilian called Neymar has arrived with many similarities to Ronaldinho - both the good such as his talent and bad such as his need to be at the centre of attention.
The situation may be slightly different to 10 years ago, given that Messi is now arguably the world's best player. But, with the unloyal and controversial release of Eric Abidal still fresh in the memory, a feeling of change is hovering over the Camp Nou.
Foreign manager and arrogant Brazilian star - Part 2?
If Neymar's talent is allowed to go to waste under a new manager, just as Ronaldinho's was in Rijkaard's last couple of seasons, then Barcelona could find themselves in a desperate situation. It is still too early to tell if Neymar will enjoy as many late nights as Ronaldinho, but his cockiness and the fact he is so young make that scenario not so unlikely.
Should Barcelona appoint a manager incapable of handling and controlling the biggest stars on the planet, the club could find themselves back to where they were 10 years ago.
Just like in the first few years after Rijkaard and Ronaldinho's 2003 arrivals, there may well be early success on the field. For that success to be long-term, however, club president Sandro Rosell will need to appoint a man who won't let a talented group of players fizzle out after a few bright years.
It was on the 20th of July 2003 that Ronaldinho arrived at FC Barcelona. 10 years later, a similar story could be about to begin with only the cast having changed.
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