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Axed Rijkaard accepts blame
The Barcelona manager take responsibilty for his side's lack of form.
Last Modified: 10 May 2008 15:52 GMT

Frank Rijkaard is likely to get a fond farewell
from the Nou Camp [GALLO/GETTY]
Outgoing FC Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard says he is to blame for the team's poor form, not club president Joan Laporta or his players.

The Dutchman was speaking publicly for the first time since Barcelona announced Thursday he would be dismissed at the end of the season after five years in charge.

"I assume my responsibility and that's natural,'' Rijkaard said.

His replacement will be reserve team coach Pep Guardiola.

"It has been a great honor for me. I'm concentrating on the lovely things I have experienced, the people I have worked with, the friendship with people I will carry with me in my heart, the new experiences,'' Rijkaard said.

Madrid mauling

On Wednesday, Barcelona lost 4-1 at Real Madrid to trail the recently proclaimed champion by 17 points in third place and guarantee its worst finish since the 2002-03 season.

Barcelona is about to complete a second straight season without winning a major trophy.

It was recently eliminated from the Champions League semifinals by Manchester United.

Rijkaard said the fault for the team's difficulties did not lie with Laporta.

"People are talking a lot about the president, but he can't score goals. The sports side was run by me and if the results are not what we want, the president has nothing to do with it,'' he said.

Rijkaard also chose not to criticize his players, some of whom, including Ronaldinho, have been accused of lacking team spirit and not pulling their weight.

"Each of them, according to circumstances, has done his best,'' the coach said.

Under Rijkaard, Barcelona won 166 of its 281 games. It lost 51 times.

The 45-year-old Rijkaard makes his final home appearance in charge when Barcelona hosts Mallorca on Sunday.

Supporters are expected to use the game at the Camp Nou to vent their annoyance with the team and Laporta for Barcelona's poor form.

Fond farewell

However, Rijkaard, who led Barcelona to the Champions League and two league titles, is set to receive a fond farewell.

"We shouldn't applaud someone and not yet others. We're all in the same boat and I don't want to be an exception in this sense. If there is whistling at the stadium it should also be for me because I am one of the team,'' he said.

Rijkaard also said he had "a lot of respect'' for Guardiola, who takes charge on July 1.

"He is doing a great job (with the reserve team). He's a man of the club and I think he could some good things,'' Rijkaard said.

Rijkaard will field a depleted team against Mallorca.

Barcelona is missing six injured players, including Ronaldinho, Andres Iniesta and Gabi Milito, along with the suspended Xavi Hernandez and Rafael Marquez.

Rijkaard has been forced to call up two players from the club's reserve side, defender Rafael Romero and midfielder Jose Manuel Rueda, neither of whom has played in the first team.

The coach's final game in charge will be at relegated Murcia next weekend.

Source:
Agencies
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