May 1, 2008
Barca prepare major overhaul at the end of the season
May 1, 2008
By Simon Baskett
MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona are preparing a major overhaul at the club after the team's failure to live up to expectations this season.
"The poor performance means we have to make changes," sporting director Txiki Begiristain told Barca TV.
"Now is the time to analyse the situation and we will make the decisions at the end of the season."
Barca's 1-0 aggregate defeat at the hands of Manchester United in the semi-finals of the Champions League this week meant that the Catalans have now gone two seasons without winning a trophy despite making heavy investment in new players.
Begiristain said that there would have been changes even if they had won the tie against the Premier League side.
"If we had got to Moscow almost nothing would have changed," he said.
"We haven't improvised before and we aren't going to do it now. Everything has been prepared and will be done in time. The changes will take place at the end of the season."
The former player admitted that the signings the club had made last season, which included France striker Thierry Henry, defenders Eric Abidal and Gabriel Milito, and midfielder Yaya Toure, had failed to bring about the desired improvement.
"Last year, we reacted quickly and at the start of the season no one doubted the quality of the squad, but the truth is it hasn't turned out well.
"Not winning any trophies has been a big disappointment given the big names we've got, but the image on the poster is one thing and the performance the players actually give is another."
But he added that the players alone were not the only ones responsible for the club's failures.
"The blame lies with the players, the coaches and the technical staff," he said.
Barca's former talisman Ronaldinho, the player who was given the credit for steering the club to back-to-back league titles and victory in the Champions League in 2006, tops the list of likely discards at the end of the season.
Henry, Portugal midfielder Deco, defenders Lilian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta, centre-back Rafael Marquez and forward Eidur Gudjohnsen are amongst the other players Barca are reported to want to offload.
Sevilla wingback Daniel Alves, Deportivo Coruna defender Fabricio Coloccini, Bayern Munich fullback Philipp Lahm, Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas and Olympique Lyon striker Karim Benzema have all been touted as possible new recruits.
Local media are also taking it for granted that coach Frank Rijkaard will leave the Nou Camp at the end of the season with former player Pep Guardiola, now coach of the club's reserve team, and Jose Mourinho tipped as his possible replacements.
"Rijkaard has done an extraordinary job. He's honest and he is a club man," Begiristain said.
"He now has to find a way of finishing off the season in a dignified fashion and making people remember his successes."
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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