Barcelona coach Pep
Guardiola, who led the club to unprecedented heights with a
brand of football widely regarded as the closest to perfection
the game has seen, will leave at the end of the season and be
replaced by assistant Tito Vilanova.
Guardiola's decision to step aside to rest and recuperate
brings to an end a four-year tenure during which he led the
Catalans to 13 trophies, including two Champions League triumphs
and three straight Spanish La Liga titles.
The announcement on Friday at an emotional news conference
at the Nou Camp, with Guardiola flanked by president Sandro
Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, came after
months of speculation over the 41-year-old's future.
It was also three days after his team were denied a place in
the Champions League final by Chelsea in a spectacular match and
followed last weekend's 2-1 La Liga defeat at home to rivals
Real Madrid that all-but ended their hopes of a fourth title in
"Four years is an eternity for a coach of Barcelona,"
Guardiola said as stony-faced first-team players including Xavi,
Andres Iniesta, Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol looked on.
"Four years wear you down and that's the fundamental
reason," the former midfielder added.
"The person who will occupy my place will give something
that I cannot, because being here for four years is hard, the
demands are very high and you have to be very strong.
"When I started out I thought I could achieve everything and
that's what I want to get back."
Rosell and Zubizarreta said they had promoted Vilanova, who
had an undistinguished career as a player but has been a crucial
part of Guardiola's coaching success, because he was well placed
to protect his close friend's legacy.
The pair were contemporaries at Barca's famed 'La Masia'
youth academy and Vilanova was also Guardiola's assistant in his
first coaching role in charge of the club's B team.
He was famously poked in the eye by Real coach Jose Mourinho
during a mass brawl earlier this season and had surgery to
remove a tumour on his saliva glands in November which sidelined
him for several weeks.
"Personality, integrity, commitment to the club and inside
knowledge," Zubizarreta said when quizzed about why Vilanova was
a good candidate.
"We have always said that when we need a player we look to
the reserve teams but when we need a coach we look within too,
to Tito," added the former Barca and Spain goalkeeper.
Media reports had expected a more high-profile replacement
for Guardiola such as Athletic Bilbao's Marcelo Bielsa.
Guardiola, who said he would be available for consultation
if ever needed, had previously renewed his Barca contract on an
annual basis and waited until February 8 last year before agreeing a
He went on to capture a third consecutive La Liga title and
a second Champions League crown, as well as the Spanish and
European Super Cups and the Club World Cup thanks to a passing
style of unmatched fluidity and control.
Known as a superb motivator, he has managed to get the very
best out of hugely-gifted players like Argentina forward Lionel
Messi, winner of the last three World Player of the Year awards.
"I want to thank Pep with all my heart for the huge amount
he has contributed to my career, both professionally and
personally," Messi said in a statement on his Facebook page.
The 24-year-old added that he had preferred not to attend
Guardiola's farewell news conference as he was feeling too
Guardiola hinted he would be taking a break from the game
but a host of suitors will be queuing up to persuade him to
Inter Milan, Manchester City and Chelsea are among the clubs
to have been linked with the sharp-suited Catalan while national
team jobs with England and Qatar have been mentioned in other
Reaction to his impending departure poured in from across
"I would have loved him, even going through a disappointing
year, to stay and come back and insist on this philosophy at the
club because that would be interesting as well," Arsenal manager
Arsene Wenger, once linked with Barca given his love of the
'beautiful game', told a news conference.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters that he hoped
Guardiola brought "his fantastic idea of football" to Serie A,
where he played for Brescia and AS Roma.
Barca have the chance to say goodbye to their coach by
winning more silverware as they play Athletic Bilbao in next
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