'Special one' snubbed by Barcelona despite fans' backing

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The Independent Online

The "special one" is not the chosen one. Barcelona have decided not to appoint Jose Mourinho as their first-team coach for next season despite him being the overwhelming choice of the club's supporters.

The club's "delegate commission" – in effect, its board of directors – has provisionally agreed to give Frank Rijkaard's job to current reserve team coach and former player Pep Guardiola at the end of the season despite the fact that the 37-year-old only has one year's coaching experience.

The decision, yet to be officially confirmed by the club, will move Mourinho increasingly closer to Serie A where Internazionale now look like becoming his next destination.

The former Chelsea manager wanted the Barcelona job and the people wanted Mourinho but ultimately there were certain barriers that could not be overcome.

In the middle of Chelsea's epic battles with Barcelona under Mourinho, he famously said he did not need to learn how to lose a Champions League final 4-0 – referring to the final Johan Cruyff's Barcelona side lost to Milan in 1994.

Now Guardiola, the captain of Cruyff's so-called dream team from that era is the man who replaces Rijkaard, and not Mourinho.

Mourniho did have his supporters at the Nou Camp and Sporting Director Txiki Begiristain is understood to have met with him in January. But certain conditions that might have helped the pro-Mourinho camp persuade the doubters were not met. It is rumoured that working as part of a team with a young in-house coach, possibly Guardiola, was rejected by Mourinho who saw a move to pick his coaching staff for him as undermining his authority before he had even started.

For the outgoing Rijkaard there will be no shortage of suitors with one of his former clubs, Milan, a possible option. In an exclusive interview with The Independent two weeks ago he did not rule out linking up with his old Ajax pal Frank Arnesen and his former Barça second-in-command Henk Ten Cate at Chelsea.

But a year's sabbatical is also a real option for a man who knows that, having won two leagues and a European Cup in the last five years, a season out will not reduce his list of suitors.

Rijkaard first has the small matter of a clasico with Real Madrid to deal with. It is a must-win match for a side in danger of missing out on automatic qualification for the Champions League group stage.

The match will see Thierry Henry return to the Santiago Bernabeu, where he scored one of the goals of the season in 2006 to help Arsenal knock Real Madrid out of that competition.

This time he will be part of a guard of honour as tradition forces Barcelona to salute the newly-crowned Champions as they take to the pitch.

Recalling that famous goal two years ago, he said: "I have a good memory from that game but it was in another team, in another match and in another competition. Let's see if I can repeat it."

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