JUST LIKE Ruud Gullit, his former colleague in the great Dutch national team of the 1980s, Frank Rijkaard is this week taking on what may well be the greatest challenge of his career.
While Gullit has the responsibility of restoring the on-field reputation of Newcastle United, Rijkaard has the fortunes of more than just a club side to worry about. Yesterday the former Milan and Ajax midfielder was named as the new coach of the Dutch national team.
It is the 35-year-old Rijkaard's first coaching appointment. Since his retirement from playing in 1995 he has spent more time building up a business trading in ladies' underwear than working in football. He only returned to the game to work as an assistant to his predecessor as national coach, Guus Hiddink (who has moved on to take charge of Real Madrid), at this year's World Cup in France.
Rijkaard will coach the side until the European Championship in 2000 in Belgium and the , with an option to extend his contract for another two years. Johan Neeskens, 46, will be his assistant. He was also one of Hiddink's assistants in France, where the team reached the World Cup semi-finals.
Rijkaard and Neeskens have both taken the Dutch Football Association's fast-track coaches' course for former internationals, along with Gullit and Ronald Koeman, who had been another of Hiddink's assistants at the World Cup but is now No 2 at Barcelona. The Dutch FA is believed to have approached Johan Cruyff and the former Celtic manager, Wim Jansen, before opting for Rijkaard.
BARCELONA MANAGED to sign the former Ajax striker Patrick Kluivert, a summer transfer target for both Arsenal and Manchester United, from Milan before Friday's Spanish League transfer deadline, but they failed to land the two Dutch internationals they have been pursuing all summer.
Louis van Gaal, the former Ajax coach now in charge at Barcelona, has been chasing the De Boer brothers, Frank and Ronald, but has been unable to persuade the Amsterdam club to release them from their long-term contracts.
However, it may not be long before the brothers join the Catalan side. There is a transfer window in the Spanish season in December, and on Sunday Frank de Boer said: "There are two possible solutions. Either we play with Ajax until December and then go to Barcelona, or we stay at Ajax the whole season and then start next year with Barcelona. It's just a matter of time."
THE VETERAN striker Romario is not having a happy season. His miserable run of form continued when he missed an easy chance during Flamengo's 1-1 draw with their bitter rivals, Vasco da Gama, in a Brazilian league fixture on Sunday and was jeered off the pitch for the third match running.
Romario fired the ball straight at Vasco's goalkeeper Carlos Germano from point-blank range in the 83rd minute, missing a golden opportunity to give his struggling side a win over Vasco. Last weekend he missed a penalty, and on Wednesday he was also booed after another poor performance.
"I would have jeered as well, because I didn't play well," Romario admitted prior to Sunday's game. He denied that he was about to retire, though, and insisted he intends to play for another four years. "I feel like a wounded lion, but the claws are still sharp and they will appear again," the injury-prone 32-year-old said.Reuse content