Barcelona have confirmed that their coach, Pep Guardiola, has decided to leave the club at the end of the season. His assistant, Tito Vilanova, will succeed Guardiola next season.
At a press conference called at the Camp Nou on Friday lunchtime, Guardiola said that he had always wanted short contracts because the demands of the job were so huge. “Four years is an eternity for a coach,” he said. At the beginning of October 2011 Guardiola says that he told the chairman that he felt his era at Barcelona was closing, though he could not say so publicly. Now that the club was no longer in the Spanish title race or the Champions League he felt it was time to end the uncertainty.
“That passion so necessary to continue, so the players listen to you disappears after four years,” he said. “You can only recover that by resting. It would have been a bad idea to continue. Perhaps we wouldn’t have gone wrong but I had the perception it would. I could not run the risk that it would go wrong. It is my time to go.”
“I think that sincerely that the next person will have things to bring that can’t. Every day during four years, the demands are very high, the pressure, the necessary energy to push the players and enjoy it. I need to rest and move away.”
“I’m very sorry for all of the uncertainty I created over this time over my future, maybe that was an error of mine,” Guardiola said. “I didn’t mean to create this kind of mood.”
He paid a sincere tribute to the players he was “privileged” to coach who made the “dream” possible. Now he needed time to recover. Time had taken its toll on him and he didn’t feel the same as he did four years ago. “I am proud I have done my duty,” he said, and left to the applause of his audience which included many members of his squad.
The club’s president, Sandro Rossell, opened the meeting by confirming Guardiola’s decision and saying to him: “Thank you for your work and your love.”
After the two principals had spoken the club’s sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, announced the appointment of Vilanova: “We chose Tito because he represents the idea and the image,” he said. “He has commitment and personality.”
Vilanova underwent an operation in November last year to remove a throat tumour and has only recently returned to work. At the beginning of the season he was poked in the eye by the Real Madrid manager, José Mourinho.
Zubizarreta added: “We’ve always said that if the team needs players, we look at home first (Barca B). Who do we have here at home? Tito.”
Guardiola endorsed the move. He said: “I think the club has taken the best decision possible. He is more than capable. The players know him. He will make few changes. He will give the club and these players something that I thought I could no longer give. I could have continued but is not what Barca would have deserved.”
Guardiola’s friend, the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, said he was surprised by the Barça coach’s decision: “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. 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.”
On the pressure Guardiola faced, Wenger was sympathetic. “Believe me, if somebody can understand that it’s me,” he said. “I can understand there are not many managers who work throughout a career without a breather. 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. Some people need to move out at some stage.”