The most successful manager in the storied history of FC Barcelona is walking away.
Pep Guardiola announced that he will be stepping down as Barcelona coach after the end of this season instead of renewing his rolling one-year contract with the club, one which he led to 13 trophies in four years at the helm.
Guardiola, a former Barcelona player and reserve team coach prior to his rise to prominence, cited the stresses and pressure of the position for his reasons after a week in which he saw his team bow out of the Spanish league title race with a home loss to Real Madrid and the UEFA Champions League semifinals with an aggregate loss to an undermanned Chelsea side.
"Four years is an eternity for a coach," Guardiola said at a Friday press conference. "That passion so necessary to continue, so the players listen to you disappears after four years. 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."
Instead of going after a big-name manager to fill Guardiola's void, club president Sandro Rosell tabbed Tito Vilanova, Guardiola's right-hand man during his tenure as coach, as his successor, and he will take over after the end of this season.
Guardiola's four-year run was marked by unprecedented success. He won La Liga titles in every season at the helm except this year (Barcelona is still mathematically alive behind Real Madrid, which is unlikely to blow a seven-point edge with four matches remaining), and he captured two UEFA Champions League titles as well.
His final game provides the chance to go out in a fitting way — atop the winner's podium, when Barcelona takes on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on May 24.
What do you think of Guardiola's decision to step away? Do you think this is the end of the Barcelona dynasty, or will they continue to flourish under Vilanova?
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