FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is leaving the Catalan club after deciding not to extend his contract.
President Sandro Rosell made the announcement at a news conference. “Thank you for your work and your love,” he said.
Guardiola, who wants to recharge his batteries, said: “I’m sorry for the confusion in recent weeks. I’ve always wanted short contracts because the demands at Barcelona are so big. Now we were out of the two main competitions, it was a good time to announce it.
“The reason is simple. Four years, that gets everyone tired. The new coach will give things that I can’t give anymore.”
Guardiola’s assistant Tito Vilanova will take over. “We chose Tito because he represents the idea and the image,” sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta told reporters. “He has commitment and personality.”
Guardiola had reportedly told his players of his decision at the morning’s training session.
The 41-year-old has been at the helm of the club since the summer of 2008 and since then has won 13 trophies and praise the world over for his team’s free-scoring playing style.
But Barca’s supremacy has been shattered within the space of four days since losing a crucial league match against fierce Spanish rivals Real Madrid last Saturday and then being sent crashing out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage by 10-man Chelsea on Tuesday. Both losses took place at Barca’s home stadium, the Nou Camp.
Last April Barcelona-born Guardiola told Italian media: “I feel good here but I believe my time at Barcelona is ending. I’ve already done three years, one more will be four years. And in four years a big club needs a lot of courage to keep the same coach. Everyone should know when it’s the right time to go, as I always heard when I was a player.”
In his time as coach of Barca, Guardiola has won the Champions League twice, three La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, three Supercopas, two Uefa Super Cups and two Fifa Club World Cups. Such a record would make him the most sought-after manager in football if he confirms the rumours that he is leaving Barcelona after a glittering career as a player and coach.
The most widely-held belief among pundits is that Guardiola will take a year out of management, such has been his close career attachment to Barca. But there are several clubs with plenty of financial clout to tempt him away from a sabbatical including Chelsea, whose current manager Roberto Di Matteo is currently in the post on a temporary basis.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini may have to answer some tough questions from his extremely wealthy employers if he fails to deliver the Premier League trophy this season. The chances of Mancini winning the title will be all but dead if City do not win Monday’s derby with Manchester United, whose own boss Alex Ferguson is expected to retire within the next few years. All three English clubs, as well as many others in Europe and beyond, will be monitoring the situation closely.