Pep Guardiola, the most successful Barcelona coach ever, will quit the Spanish soccer club after losses in the last week ended its chance to defend its league and European titles.
The 41-year-old announced his resignation today at a press conference. Assistant coach Tito Vilanova will take over, club president Sandro Rosell said.
“After four years, everyone gets tired,” Guardiola said. “You can only recover by getting away and resting.”
Barcelona lost at home to Real Madrid April 21 to fall seven points behind Real with four games remaining in the Spanish season. Barcelona was eliminated by Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals three days later.
Guardiola has overseen two Champions League titles -- more than any other Barcelona coach -- and three Spanish titles since replacing Frank Rijkaard in 2008. Johan Cruijff and Rijkaard are the other coaches to have led Barcelona to elite European titles, in 1992 and 2006.
Guardiola said he would take a break from soccer.
“I will probably return, but not now,” he said.
Guardiola had been coach of the Barcelona reserve team. Former president Joan Laporta promoted him to lead the first team after a single season because of his knowledge of the team’s style.
He captained Barcelona as a midfielder, playing 379 times for the team between 1990 and 2001. The period included winning the 1992 European Cup.
In his first season as coach, Barcelona won each of the six competitions it took part in including Spain’s La Liga and Copa del Rey, the world club championship and the Champions League.
Guardiola said he told club executives in February that he was nearing the end of his stint as coach. He had a rolling contract that expired at the end of the season, and the former Barcelona player turned down Rosell’s offer of an extension.
Barcelona lost 1-0 to Chelsea and then was held to a 2-2 draw April 24th at the Camp Nou to lose 3-2 to the London team in the two-match semifinal.
“I couldn’t make a decision based upon one result,” the coach said. “My head had already decided that this was my last season.”
Barcelona’s style under Guardiola has focused on accurate passing and ball control, giving the team 60 to 70 percent of possession in most matches. Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said he was disappointed that the Spaniard was quitting because he appreciated the squad’s fluid style of play.
“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,” the Frenchman said. “That would be interesting.”
Vilanova was Guardiola’s assistant for the last several years. He returned to the training ground last year 15 days after an operation on a parotid gland. He trained with Guardiola in Barcelona’s youth squad, but never played in a league match for the club. The former midfielder played for Celta Vigo in Spain’s top league.
“Why Tito? Because he represents everything that this club represents,” Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta. “The style of play, the analysis, everything. He puts in hours until he goes to sleep to prepare things. We need somebody like that.”