Frank Rijkaard

Rijkaard was one of the best, most universally-admired, and versatile players of his generation.  He turned professional in 1979, and debuted for Holland at 19.  His career would last fifteen years during which he won numerous European titles before eventually retiring in unprecedented style.

 

Frank Rijkaard was born in 1962 to Surinamse parents.  He grew up in Amsterdam where he was a childhood friend of Ruud Gullit.  Together they played street football, and naturally their street usually won.  While Gullit was lured away to Haarlem, Rijkaard went to the Ajax school where he worked his way through the youth programme.  There he played together with many of the other future greats of his generation, most notably Marco van Basten.  He turned professional at the tender age of seventeen.  Rijkaard, as many of his teammates, benefited tremendously from playing alongside Johan Cruijff and under Johan Cruijff when he began as coach at Ajax.  After many successful seasons with the Amsterdam club, Rijkaard had a falling out with Cruijff and left Ajax to play in Portugal and Spain.  He then found his way to AC Milan where he completed the famous Dutch trio with Gullit and van Basten.

n the 1988 European Championship, Rijkaard became well known across Europe.  His reputation grew until he was eventually seen as one the best and certainly one of the most versatile players in the world.  There was little that Rijkaard could not do.  He was outstanding defender and midfielder, he scored goals regularly, and he was almost unbeatable in the air.  His versatility was a blessing for his coaches who could always adapt tactics with the security of Rijkaard’s adaptability.  His disposition and cool-headedness was greatly admired by both his teammates and his opponents, except for that notable exception in the 1990 World Cup.  The incident took place in the match against Germany when Rijkaard spit on Rudi Voller.  After that he went into a self-imposed exile from the national team for over a year.  He returned in time for the 1992 European Championship where he scored the opening goal in the victory over Germany and he scored the equaliser in the Semi-Final against Denmark.  Rijkaard’s indispensable international role continued through one more

tournament, the 1994 World Cup in America, making him one of the few Dutchman ever to play in four international tournaments.  When Rijkaard retired from the national team in 1994 it was after more than a decade in the orange jersey.  His tenure consisted of 72 caps and 9 goals.

 

At AC Milan Rijkaard won two European cups and two World Club Cups. In 1993 Rijkaard had returned to Ajax to wind down his club career, he would do so in rare style.  In a team with an average age of 23, he was the old veteran to which all the young players looked up to.  He inspired his team to two League titles.  In his last season, something he announced in the beginning, the Rijkaard-led Ajax made a triumphal march through Europe. In the second to last match of his career, he led Ajax to its fourth European Cup in their 1-0 win over his old club, AC Milan.  It was his pass that set up the winning goal.  The standing ovation that the Milan fans gave Rijkaard after the match showed their joy for his success and their gratitude for what he had done for them. 

 

Frank Rijkaard’s last match ended in victory as well.  No other Dutch footballer has ever succeeded in ending a career in such a spectacular style.