Barcelona gave Pep Guardiola a
fitting end to his glittering four-year reign as coach winning
the King's Cup final against Athletic Bilbao 3-0 on Friday to
send him off with a 14th trophy under his arm.
Pedro scored a brace and the outstanding player of the
Guardiola era, World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, added the
other to finish with an unprecedented 73 goals in all
competitions this season.
Guardiola hands over to his assistant Tito Vilanova for next
season, as he goes off to recharge his batteries, after winning
three consecutive La Liga titles, two Champions League crowns in
2009 and 2011, and two King's Cups.
His 14 trophies matches Johan Cruyff's tally from eight
years as Barca coach, and of the 19 competitions he has competed
in, it is easier to list the five he has failed to snare.
Guardiola lost the King's Cup final 1-0 after extra time
against Real Madrid last year and made a last 16 exit in 2010.
He twice fell in the Champions League semi-finals to eventual
winners Inter Milan and Chelsea.
In the league, Barca only lost out to Real to finish second
earlier this month after Jose Mourinho's side broke the league
points and goal-scoring record to top the standings.
"Winning 14 titles in four years is very difficult and we
are very satisfied," a beaming Guardiola told a news
"This has been the best year, in which we have made the most
progress tactically. During the first few years it was all
energy and fireworks. I watch matches from our first season and
we made more mistakes."
Asked if he thought his side were the best in history, he
added, "It would be presumptuous to say something like that. I
know we have left behind some good memories and that people will
remember that they had a good time. Anything else is just
For Bilbao, it completed a miserable end to a season in
which they had thrilled with their dynamic brand of attacking
They reached the Europa League final, seeing off Manchester
United and Schalke 04 along the way, to be crushed 3-0 by
Atletico Madrid two weeks ago, before the heartache of a second
final defeat, by the same score.
They take away the consolation of a place in the Europa
League next season as the losing finalists, with Barca already
qualified for the Champions League again.
"I thank the fans for their generosity," Bilbao coach
Marcelo Bielsa said in reference fans' chants for him to stay
after the final whistle, though he gave little away on his
future at his post-match news conference.
"I already said that once the season was over, two parties
would sit down to evaluate whether the coaching staff that I
lead will continue or not."
As expected, a shortened version of the Spanish national
anthem before kick-off was met with a cacophony of whistles from
the Basque and Catalan nationalists among the fans.
That was quickly forgotten in a whirlwind opening at a
festive Calderon in Madrid.
Messi curled a shot past the post in the first minute and
Pedro had an effort deflected wide for a corner which led to the
opening goal in only the third minute.
The diminutive forward swept in a loose ball in front of the
ecstatic Barca fans.
Andres Iniesta slipped a ball through for Messi to score the
second, the Argentine smashing a shot high into the net from a
tight angle in the 20th minute and Bilbao were finished off soon
Pedro fired in a curling shot to end the game as a contest
and boosted his chances of a call up to Spain's final 23-man
squad for Euro 2012, which Vicente del Bosque is due to announce
As Barca peeled away to celebrate, some Bilbao players were
already sinking to their knees.
Barca reserve goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto, who always plays
instead of Victor Valdes in the cup, made a couple of saves
before the break, but Bilbao faded away as Barca hogged
The victory set up a tough debut for Barca's incoming coach
Vilanova, who will now take on arch-rivals and league champions
Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in August, the traditional
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