Jose Mourinho's chances of walking back into Barcelona as the club's new coach became a little less far-fetched last night as the club's supporters gave Frank Rijkaard a massive vote of no confidence and named Mourinho as someone who could sort out a demotivated and under-achieving dressing room.
Mourinho assumed the role of public enemy No 1 with Barcelona fans in his time as Chelsea manager – labelling Leo Messi an actor and famously sliding along the Nou Camp touchline in celebration. But at a club where presidents are elected and so fan opinion carries major weight, 66 per cent of supporters said they did not believe Rijkaard was capable of changing Barça's fortunes, in a poll organised by Catalonia's No 1 football paper, Sport.
In Sport's rival paper, El Mundo Deportivo, fans went further by calling for Mourinho to come in and arrest the slump in away form that has seen them pick up just six points from a possible 18 losing ground on Real Madrid in the process.
Among the selection of messages that El Mundo Deportivo published on its front page were several calling for Mourinho. "Sign Mourinho and let's make the rest of the league fear us again," was one example, while another supporter said: "Let's sign Mourinho to sort out the mess".
Rijkaard has an embarrassment of riches in attack but they have not delivered on the road so far this season. In three games the combined forces of Messi, Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho have failed to score and at humble Getafe at the weekend they managed just one shot between them with both the Brazilian and the Argentine taken off in the second half.
Mourinho's aggressive approach is seen by a growing number of fans as the perfect antidote to Rijkaard's laid-back style of management although his reputation for occasionally winning with brawn as opposed to beautiful football would leave plenty of opposition to his appointment should Rijkaard leave.
Barcelona's next away match is in three weeks when they play local rivals Espanyol. Defeat there would increase pressure on Rijkaard who has not been helped by free-scoring Real Madrid topping La Liga.
Last night Rijkaard was uncharacteristically open in criticism of his players. He said: "The forwards have to work just as much as the rest of the team. There are players who are underperforming away from home. When we lose the ball not all the players are working equally to get it back."
Meanwhile, the Real Sociedad coach, Chris Coleman, received a vote of confidence from his sporting director, Salva Iriarte, after his "washing machine" problems on Friday.
Coleman blamed his plumbing for turning up 90 minutes late to a press conference only to admit it had been an "excuse" after being out until the early hours. Yesterday, Iriarte confirmed that he and the club president, Maria de la Peña, had met with Coleman and that the board were "investigating the matter" but would only take it further if there were more revelations.
Iriarte said: "We are all human and we all make mistakes. He has said he is sorry and explained himself to me. As far as I am concerned the matter is closed."Reuse content