Rijkaard continues overseas adventures

ROTTERDAM - For a man who helped symbolise Dutch football mastery as a player in the 1980s, Frank Rijkaard has spent a very long time plying his career overseas and seems to have no intention of returning home just yet.

Most of his career as a player was split between Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan, while his management forays have taken him to the Netherlands and Spain with Barcelona.

This week though, the 46-year-old's wanderlust took him further afield and a year after leaving Barcelona he has become the man in charge at Galatasaray in Turkey.

It will be an intriguing alliance. Turkish football has improved beyond recognition in recent years and the days are long gone when their international team regularly suffered heavy defeats.

Galatasaray have also made their mark in Europe and became the first Turkish club to win a major European trophy when they lifted the UEFA Cup in 2000.

Rijkaard knows plenty about winning silverware as both a player and coach. He won the European Cup as a player with Milan and as coach of Barcelona in 2006.

With him at the helm and money to spend, Galatasaray, who finished fifth in Turkey in the season just ended, have a chance of getting back into the Champions League by finishing higher in the table next season.

Rijkaard, who was capped 73 times and along with Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten was one of the pivotal triumvirate that led the Netherlands to the Euro 88 title, will be joined in Turkey by another former Dutch international, Johan Neeskens.

Neeskens, a member of the great Dutch sides that reached two World Cup finals in the 1970s, was also Rijkaard's assistant during his five-year spell in Catalunya.

Rijkaard's move eastwards is not one borne of desperation. His manager Perry Overeem said last month that although Rijkaard had been offered the coaching job at Ajax following the departure of his old team mate Van Basten, he preferred to work abroad again.


"Frank was approached by Ajax but he told them this is not the right time," Overeem said.

"In the future he might be interested in the Ajax job but right now he prefers to work as a club coach abroad."

Rijkaard's choice might have been influenced by his first two coaching spells in the Netherlands which did not pan out as expected.

In 1998, he took charge of the Dutch team but resigned after they lost on penalties to Italy in the semi-finals of Euro 2000.

A year later, he accepted his first assignment as club coach at Sparta Rotterdam, but left at the end of his first season after an unexpected relegation.

Fellow Dutchman Johan Cruyff facilitated Rijkaard's move to Barcelona as coach in 2003 where he won two successive La Liga titles as well as the Champions League in 2006.

But in 2008, after two seasons without silverware, the club and Rijkaard went their separate ways.

AC Milan and Chelsea were reported to want him as coach, but he brushed off those suggestions saying he would wait for a concrete offer.

"If someone comes up with an offer, then we can talk. I still want to coach at club level" he added.

Galatasaray did just that and Rijkaard is on his way to conquer a new frontier.