When things got worse before they got better for Frank Rijkaard's Barcelona

Team 33's Raf Diallo looks back on the World Is A Ball

Frank Rijkaard

Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard, left, shakes hands with Barcelona club president Joan Laporta, right, during his official presentation as the new coach of the Barcelona club, in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona President Joan Laporta announced Thursday May 8, 2008 that he has lined up reserve team coach and former midfielder Pep Guardiola as the replacement Frank Rijkaard. (AP Photo/Cesar Rangel, File)

All in all, Edgar Davids only spent the guts of six months on loan at Barcelona in 2004. 

The Netherlands legend, who was in Dublin on Monday to help launch July's International Champions Cup match between Barcelona and Celtic at Aviva Stadium is viewed as one of the key reasons Barca rallied to finish second in La Liga during the 2003-04 season.

Barcelona was a far different club in the sense that they were at a very low ebb, it was Frank Rijkaard's first season and the building blocks of the side that won the 2006 Champions League.

Edgar Davids briefly spoke to us about the second half of that season on this week's Team 33. You can also listen in on iTunes:

Forget the most recent La Liga seasons dominated by Barcelona, and challenged by the Madrid duo of Real and Atletico.

The 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons had seen Barca finish 4th, 4th and 6th in the table, with that final season seeing three different managers in charge including Louis van Gaal who departed in January after a less than successful second spell.

Instability also reigned at board level with Joan Gaspart's three year presidency - often regarded as one of the worst in the club's history - coming to a halt to pave the way for the younger, fresher Catalonian lawyer Joan Laporta who worshiped at the altar of Johan Cruyff, who he admired greatly since childhood.

As Laporta took charge ahead of the 2003-04 season, changes began to be made, including the signing of Ronaldinho, the promotions of Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes from the youth teams and the appointment of former Netherlands and Milan legend Frank Rijkaard, whose only coaching experiences had come as manager of the Dutch national side which just fell short of the Euro 2000 final on home soil and a season in charge of Sparta Rotterdam which ended in relegation.

Significantly, the experienced Henk Ten Cate also arrived as his assistant for the three years that would end with Champions League glory in Paris in 2006.

In a talented squad, aside from Ronaldinho, veterans like current Barca boss Luis Enrique as well as a homegrown core including Xavi, Carles Puyol, Barcelona still had a strong Dutch contingent like Patrick Kluivert, Philippe Cocu, Marc Overmars, Gio van Bronckhorst and later Davids.

And things would only get worse before they got better. Rijkaard's first six months in charge. Six draws and six defeats, including a home Clasico loss to Real, had Barca way down in 12th place  

That Clasico defeat was also preceded by a 5-1 humiliation at Malaga in a four-match run without a win.

As Jonathan Wilson says in his book, Inverting The Pyramid, the expectation was that Rijkaard would be sacked, but that Cruyff's belief that things were on the right track for the future regardless of current results, helped to prevent a drastic change as Barca stayed the course.

In January 2004, Davids then arrived on loan from Juventus to form a midfield trio with Xavi and Cocu which formed the basis of an impressive second half of the season which saw them end up climbing all the way to second behind Valencia by the end of that season.

As Davids, who at his peak was embodied both creativity and the "pitbull" side told Team 33 on Monday of the second half of that campaign: "We did a great job. Everyone was in it, everybody had to build character and that is what Barcelona is about now. Back in that day, we didn't have a Lionel Messi, we didn't have a Neymar and also Ronaldinho was not the Ronaldinho of after. So we needed to do it another way but then you build character and I think there in those years, we built character."

Ronaldinho, who would be the standout player in the world for the following two seasons as Barca won La Liga in consecutive years, began to prove his worth in that second half of the campaign as he scored nine goals after January, while Davids also praised midfield partner Xavi for being "open for change".

In some way, the foundations of the current successful side can be traced back to that time.

You can read more from The World Is A Ball series every Wednesday on Newstalk.com. To find past articles, head to the Team 33 show page.