By Marcus Cleaver
After Liverpool suffered a humiliating 2-0 defeat at the hands of local rivals Everton at the weekend and now sit in the relegation zone of the Premier League, speculation is rife as to who will replace beleaguered boss Roy Hodgson. With six points from eight games, only West Ham have a worse record this season and Hodgson is now favourite to be the next manager to leave his post at odds of only 2/1. With the Reds already a club in turmoil there is rumour that Frank Rijkaard is waiting in the wings to take over and, in my opinion, he could just turn out to be the perfect man for the job.
The Dutchman is currently the manager of Turkish club Galatasaray who have also not had a great start to the season and already find themselves eight points behind top club Buraspor. In fact on Monday the board at Galatasaray held an emergency meeting to discuss Rijkaard’s future at the club. Meanwhile on the other side of the boardroom table, rumour has it that Rijkaard himself is already looking for a new job after a somewhat disappointing spell in the Turkish Super Lig.
The timing could not be better as if new Liverpool owners, New England Sports Ventures (NESV), wish to replace Hodgson they will want to do so before January so that a new manager can become au fait with the squad before the transfer window opens. This, alongside the fact that Rijkaard was one of the main contenders last time the Reds job was open, has fuelled speculation amongst the bookmakers.
Rijkaard is not the only man in the running though and it is widely believed that there are two other main competitors for the post: Martin O’Neill and Leonardo. O’Neill of course has experience of the British game and has had success with Aston Villa, making them a side that could compete with the top clubs in England. We must not also forget that the reason he left the Midlands club just before the start of this season was due to lack of funds; something that won’t be a problem with NESV at the helm of Liverpool. Leonardo is more of an outside bet but the former Milan manager should not be underestimated by any means. His brand of attacking football is exactly what Liverpool need to get out of the relegation zone and come January it seems likely that the Brazilian will spend his cash wisely as his years as a scout and technical director mean he’s got a great eye for talent.
Nevertheless I still believe that Rijkaard is the best candidate having both the experience of O’Neill and the daring of Leonardo. Let us not forget for example that when he joined Barcelona back in 2003 they also began the season flirting with relegation before turning it around and finishing second. This inspired a new era in the Catalan club as they went on to win two La Liga titles and the Champions League in 2005/06 when they beat Arsenal in the final. Rijkaard also has a similarly impressive transfer record, bringing Eto’o and Deco to the club and turning them into a deadly threat to even the most experienced defences.
Rijkaard’s coaching philosophy would also work well for Liverpool and would be a very much welcome addition to English football. Following in the tradition of fellow countrymen, Rinus Michels and Johan Curijff, Rijkaard prefers an attacking brand of football in which his teams play as a cohesive unit. However he is not confined to the outdated total football of old and has often adapted his tactics, promoting creativity and altogether entertaining football that drew the crowds to the Nou Camp. His style of man-management is also to be admired as he refuses to abide by any “star system”, preferring to regard all of his players as equally important.
With such a brilliant CV, an intriguing coaching style and an eye for talent it should not be just Liverpool fans who hope to see Rijkaard arrive at Anfield in the near future. He will provide a welcome input to the Premier League and potentially make Liverpool once again the great club that they were in days gone by.