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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
With Avram Grant deposed, the battle for succession at Stamford Bridge is on and there's only man that I want to see given a chance in the hotseat. The enduring bone of contention with Chelsea is that, with limitless funds, they've spent five years building up a very good, but very workman-like team who play for percentages and grind their opponents into dust. A super-Bolton, if you will. Roman Abramovich now has a chance to make his dream of flamboyant football come true and I can't be the only neutral who hopes that he takes it. Frank Rijkaard stands out as the obvious man for the job.

Rijkaard knows all about empire building. He arrived at the Camp Nou as the first managerial appointment of new President Juan Laporta and set about constructing one of the most attractive sides in the world. A slow start to his tenure saw protests and white hankies in the stands, but the signing of Edgar Davids galvanised the team and they eventually finished second. With that transitional period complete, Barcelona went on to win back-to-back La Liga titles and, in 2006, their first European Cup for 14 years. They did it all playing divine, mesmeric football.

There are concerns that the new Chelsea manager will have problems imposing their will on the team, given that the power vacuum left by Jose Mourinho appears to have been filled by the senior players. As former coach of the Dutch national side, Rijkaard knows all about dressing room egos and the fragile temperament of young superstars. He's never shirked a challenge and, up until his final disappointing season, he had kept characters at diverse as Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Carlos Puyol grounded and happy. The squad was well marshalled by the 'good-cop, bad-cop' routine of Rijkaard and his former number two, Henk Ten Cate who is, of course, already waiting for him at Stamford Bridge. With Rijkaard's steady calm and Ten Cate's vicious snarl, they're a perfect double act, more than capable of dominating and ruling over their new charges.

Rijkaard has always been insistent on playing free-flowing, attacking football regardless of the circumstances. He favours a genuine 4-3-3, with three strikers, rather than the 4-3-3 of Grant that was actually a defensive 4-5-1 with long balls pumped up to Didier Drogba. He likes the ball to moved quickly on the ground and he loves to give outrageously talented footballers the platform to express themselves. Joe Cole is probably bouncing off the walls thinking about the fun he could have. He's not the only one. Imagine a Premier League where the top three sides all play gorgeous football.

The concern is that the Chelsea hierarchy will look only at the final season where Rijkaard struggled to keep control without the help of Ten Cate and Barcelona finished third. They may instead consider Mark Hughes, who has done such an amazing job at Ewood Park and deserves a chance with a big club. They might plump for Roberto Mancini, fresh from another Serie A title with Inter Milan. They may even go for the en vogue, fashionista choice of either Laurent Blanc or Michael Laudrup. All managers with their own claims to the throne, but none with the flamboyance and daring of Rijkaard.

Call me selfish, call me an old romantic, but just imagine seeing all those limitless funds directed to the construction of the perfect footballing football team, and then tell me that you don’t think Rijkaard is the man for the job.