x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gulf Cup: Rijkaard facing axe as Saudi Arabia coach as prince offers to buy out contract

Reports from the kingdom suggest the former Dutch international could be fired within the next two days after his side's early exit from the Gulf Cup.

Saudi Arabia coach Frank Rijkaard faces the media at the 2013 Gulf Cup.
Saudi Arabia coach Frank Rijkaard faces the media at the 2013 Gulf Cup.

Frank Rijkaard could be dismissed as Saudi Arabia coach within the next 48 hours after his side's early exit from the Gulf Cup in Bahrain, according to media reports emanating from the kingdom.

Ahmed Eid, president of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation, will meeting with the other officials of the SAFF in Bahrain itself in the coming hours to discuss Rijkaard's future with the team.

The Dutch legend, who guided Barcelona to two Spanish league titles and the 2006 Champions League in his five years as manager, has been facing mounting calls for his departure due to Saudi Arabia's declining performance under his reign.

Saudi Arabia have slipped from world No 92 to No 126 since Rijkaard took over the reins of the team in July, 2011, after signing a three-year contract. They have made early exits from all three tournaments the team has participated in during this period.

The Saudis could not make it to the final round of the Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, winning just one of their six group matches, and they also failed to progress beyond the group stages at the West Asian Championships in Kuwait last month.

The failure in Bahrain - where Saudi Arabia could beat only Yemen and lost to Iraq and Kuwait - has made Rijkaard's position virtually untenable. At the post-match press conference following the loss to Kuwait in their final group game, one Saudi journalist openly asked the coach to step down.

"If the media and fans are not happy with the results of the team, then they are not alone," Rijkaard said in response. "I am as disappointed as them, if not more, and I hope things will change for the better.

"I will be meeting the officials of the federation in the coming days and they will make a decision that is appropriate for them."

Khalid Al Majal, the Saudi team manager, is also expected to attend the SAFF meeting, but he refused to talk about Rijkaard's fate.

"Rijkaard has been subjected to criticism from the beginning of his contract and not just before the start of this tournament," Al Majal said.

According to Saudi media reports, the SAFF have been reluctant to ask Rijkaard to step down because of a hefty penalty clause, which has been put in the region of $13 million. But yesterday, Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, general president of Saudi Arabia's Youth Welfare and Sports, offered to bear all the costs of the cancellation of Rijkaard's contract if the SAFF decided to show him the door.

Prince Nawaf has also called for a ceiling on the salaries earned by Saudi players in the domestic league, saying their performance with the national team has shown they do not deserve that kind of money.

With Saudi Arabia scheduled to meet China on February 6 in their first match of the 2015 Asian Cup qualifying, the SAFF will have to decide fact on the future of Rijkaard and the appointment of a replacement.

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