Rijkaard to blame for Barca decline - Ingla

May 19, 2008

BARCELONA, May 19 (Primera Liga) - Barcelona sporting vice-president Marc Ingla has blamed the club's recently deposed coach Frank Rijkaard and the players for the Catalan outfit's decline over the past two seasons.

Rijkaard led Barcelona to two league titles and a Champions League success in 2006, but two seasons without a trophy cost the Dutchman his job after five years at the club.

Ingla said the Catalan club had expected more from Rijkaard and the players in an unsuccessful campaign.

'They haven't moved forward,' he said on Monday.

And he added: 'Some of the players' performances have been unsatisfactory. That has been very disappointing.'

Ingla also revealed that some of the first-team squad have been punished for indiscipline and refusing to appear before the press after matches.

'That (punishment) has been dealt with internally, but I will not go into details,' he said.

Rijkaard will now be replaced by former Barcelona midfielder Josep Guardiola, who is currently coach of the club's youth team.

And Ingla said Guardiola and sporting director Txiki Begiristain will have funds available to strengthen the squad.

'There will be a deep renovation in the dressing-room, in terms of players and coaches,' he said.

'The club is economically solvent and we will be looking to strengthen the team.'

Meanwhile, Begiristain revealed that Barcelona are close to signing Manchester United defender Gerard Pique, who was born in the Catalan capital.

'Contacts are very advanced and we are interested in him,' he said.

Pique came through the youth ranks at the Nou Camp, before signing for the Premier League champions in 2004.

But the player has failed to make a big impact at Old Trafford and is expected to tie up a deal to return to his hometown club after the Champions League final on Wednesday, when United face Chelsea in Moscow.