PEP GUARDIOLA ENDED his record-breaking reign as Barcelona coach after announcing on Friday he will stand down.
Guardiola will depart at the end of the season as the most successful coach in the club’s history having collected 13 trophies, including two Champions League triumphs, in his four years at the helm.
Tito Vilanova, assistant coach under Guardiola, will take over first-team duties at Camp Nou.
The former Barcelona captain announced his decision to president Sandro Rosell after lengthy discussions following Tuesday’s shock Champions League semi-final exit at the hands of Chelsea.
The 41-year-old Guardiola, who made 479 appearances for the club as a player, decided not to renew his rolling one-year contract, which expires on June 30, and instead is believed to want a year out from the game.
Fourth title out of reach
Barcelona’s 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp on Tuesday and 3-2 aggregate loss to Chelsea ensured the club would not win back-to-back Champions League titles. The Chelsea upset followed Saturday’s 2-1 home loss at home to La Liga leaders Real Madrid, which effectively ended hopes of a fourth consecutive domestic title for the Catalan giants.
Guardiola, who has overseen the rise to greatness of three-time world player of the year Lionel Messi, as well as cementing the reputation of Spanish internationals Xavi Hernandez and Andreas Iniesta, is widely regarded as the architect behind one of the greatest club side of all time.
Rosell expressed his ‘eternal gratitude’ for Guardiola for the ‘happiness’ he has given the club, saying ‘I am sure we can overcome this new challenge’.
Guardiola, who has always insisted he will do ‘whatever is best for the club’ is understood to have told officials he ‘could not go on’ despite repeated enticements by Rosell.
His decision to vacate his post at the end of the season may have shocked the club by they acted quick to appoint Vilanova as the new supremo.
‘Tito’ has first-hand experience of the team, the challenges that await and the intense rivalry with Real Madrid.
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A summer of planning, buying and selling awaits Vilanova – not to mention augmenting a winning style of football with a personal touch.
Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa, and Luis Enrique, now at Roma, may have been better suited to ‘Tito’ and Jose Mourinho would have loved to throw a mischievous hat in the ring.
Guardiola will leave a void at Barcelona and Vilanova will need a winning start.
Who would you have chosen as the next Barcelona manager?