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HE CAME, HE SAW...

How Edgar Davids sparked a revolution at Barcelona

The Dutchman signed on a six-month loan deal during the 2003/04 season and was instrumental in their rise up the table

The date was 17 January 2004.

Barcelona were welcoming Athletic Bilbao to the Nou Camp, with the club sitting in seventh place in La Liga.

Frank Rijkaard was in his first season as Barcelona coach and all was not well at the club.


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A man not adverse to collar and sweatshirt

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A man not adverse to collar and sweatshirt

Early season troubles

A summer of new arrivals had seen Barcelona miss out on David Beckham to arch-rivals Real Madrid but sign plenty of creative flair in Ronaldinho, Ricardo Quaresma and goalkeeper Recber Rustu.

But results weren’t going Rijkaard’s way.

A Ronaldo-inspired El Clasico loss to Madrid in early December had seen Barcelona slip to 11th, bringing serious pressure on the Dutchman’s job.

He needed a fighter. Someone to add steel to his silky midfield. So he turned to Edgar Davids.

Who knew that getting your ear pierced was part of a Barcelona medical?

EPA
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Who knew that getting your ear pierced was part of a Barcelona medical?

Welcoming the Doberman

The signing of fellow pit bull midfielder Stephen Appiah had left Davids surplus to requirements at Juventus.

So it was that, on 17 January, Davids lined up alongside Xavi and Phillip Cocu in the heart of Barcelona’s midfield to start a six-month loan spell.

His impact was felt immediately. Nope, he didn’t score. Barcelona didn’t even win. But he was booked for a typically feisty challenge.

No longer would teams be able to kick Xavi, Ronaldinho and Javier Saviola out of games.

Has a footballer ever looked cooler on a football pitch?

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Has a footballer ever looked cooler on a football pitch?

Turnaround in fortunes

It wasn’t long before Davids’ injection of bite in midfield had sparked a turnaround in Barcelona’s fortunes.

Barcelona won their next eight games, with Davids scoring in the 5-0 win against Albacete.

A red card against Atletico Madrid was par for the course where Davids was concerned, but Xavi and Ronaldinho were playing as well as they had under Rijkaard.

His next major test came in the Bernabeu.

Doing what he does best

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Doing what he does best

He came, he saw, he snapped some shin pads

Madrid lined up with arguably the best midfielder in Europe- Zinedine Zidane.

But a Davids masterclass inspired a 2-1 win for Barcelona, maintaining their grip on third place in the league and a Champions League place for the following season.

A tight 1-0 win against Racing Santander- exactly the game Davids had been brought in to navigate- took Barcelona into second place heading into the final game of the season.

Despite losing that match, against Real Zaragoza, Barcelona maintained their runners-up position.

The Edgar Davids school of defending

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The Edgar Davids school of defending

A lasting impact

Barcelona’s record following Davids’ arrival read played 19, won 14 and lost twice.

Davids would join Inter Milan the following season, but his impact was felt around Barcelona to an extent few would have predicted.

The club went on to win a first league title in six years the following campaign, going on to defend their title the following year.

Heavy?

Reuters
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Heavy?

The best loan spell in history?

Under Rijkaard and then Pep Guardiola Barcelona established themselves as the dominant side in Spain, winning eight league titles in 11 years.

There’s also been 12 domestic honours and four Champions League wins added to the Nou Camp’s trophy cabinet.

How different would life have been if Barcelona hadn’t altered their mid-season slump with the signing of Davids?

Obviously no one will ever be able to say for certain. But as loan moves go, they don’t come much better than Edgar.

A man so feisty he even tackled his own glasses off his face

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A man so feisty he even tackled his own glasses off his face