27th April, 2012
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola announced Friday he is leaving the club at the end of the season, ending a four-year reign over one of the greatest eras in club football.
“This is not a very easy situation for me,” the 41-year-old Guardiola told a news conference where the club also revealed that his assistant coach Tito Vilanova will take over.
“Four years is an eternity as coach of Barca,” said Guardiola, who wore a grey V-knecked sweater and white collared shirt as he addressed a room in the Camp Nou filled with journalists and players.
“Time wears everything down, I feel drained and I need to replenish.”
Guardiola apologised for leaving the club in uncertainty for such a long period while he considered whether to extend his one-year contract, which expires in June.
But the coach said he wanted to wait until the Champions League and the Liga title were settled before making an announcement.
Barcelona crashed out of Europe’s premier club competition after a semi-final defeat to Chelsea on Tuesday, and Guardiola has already conceded the Spanish league title to arch rivals Real Madrid.
“The man who is succeeding me will be able to bring something more,” he said, standing up to hug club president Sandro Rosell at the podium after his statement.
Rosell heaped praise on Guardiola.
“Thank you Pep for having perfected a footballing model,” he said.
“The gratitude of Barcelona supporters will be eternal to the greatest coach in the history of our club,” he added.
“Let us be up to managing the legacy you leave us with, especially the remarkable playing system which will forever be remembered as the Pep system,” Rosell said.
After spending most of his playing career at Barcelona, Guardiola coached Barcelona’s B team before taking control of the first-team squad in June 2008 from Dutchman Frank Rijkaard.
In his four years at the helm, he has led Barcelona to 13 titles and is credited with promoting some of the most sublime football in the world, helped by huge talent including footballer of the year Lionel Messi.
His successor Vilanova hit world headlines last summer when Jose Mourinho, coach of Real Madrid, poked him in the eye during a brawl on the sidelines of Barcelona’s Supercup victory at the Nou Camp.
Asked about the incident, which earned him a two-match ban, Mourinho famously asked journalists at a post-match news conference: “Pito Vilanova? I don’t know who this Pito is.”
Vilanova, 42, played only briefly as a professional in Spain’s top flight, notably with Celta Vigo, before turning to coaching at the end of his career and finding his way back to the club of his youth.
Like Guardiola, he came through Barcelona’s youth ranks but after failing to break into the first team he continued his playing career with a number of lower league sides before retiring in 2002.
He rejoined the Catalans as a youth coach in 2007, helping Barcelona’s B side to promotion.
Vilanova was promoted to first team duties, working alongside Guardiola, for the 2008-2009 season, by the end of which the team had won six major trophies including the Champions League.
In one of the early reactions to Guardiola’s exit plan, Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager said he would have liked to have seen Guardiola remain at the Camp Nou and attempt to re-establish the Spanish giants’ dominance after a week which effectively saw the Catalans lose both their European and domestic crowns.
“It comes as a surprise to me because first of all when you make a decision after a big disappointment like he has had in the past week, it may not be the right moment to make this decision,” Wenger said.
“The philosophy of Barcelona has to be bigger than winning or losing a championship.
“Guardiola is one of the representatives of this philosophy and made this philosophy triumph so I would have loved him, even going through a disappointing year, to stay and come back and insist with his philosophy. That would be interesting.”
Nevertheless Wenger, whose Arsenal side were eliminated twice from the Champions League by Guardiola’s Barcelona in recent seasons, said he had sympathy for his counterpart’s decision.
“I can understand there are not many managers who work throughout a career without a breather,” Wenger said.
“Maybe he has not shown the stress. Maybe it’s taken more than he has shown. You never know from the outside how deeply a man suffers from the inside.
“I have heard he has come out and wants to have a break to reflect on the situation, which you can understand after a certain time.
“I decided the other way to never come out of a job, because it becomes second nature to cope with it. It becomes your life, but some people need to move out at some stage.”
Wenger, who has been linked with a move to the Camp Nou in the past, meanwhile laughed when asked if he would fancy taking over from Guardiola.
“I’m happy here,” Wenger said.