Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will lead his team out for the final time on Friday when the Catalan giants face Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Spanish Cup. Guardiola will be replaced at Barcelona next season by his assistant Tito Villanova.
AP - Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was in no mood for nostalgia before his final game in charge as he fended off queries over a reportedly troubled relationship with his president and defended the team’s decision to replace him with his assistant.
Friday’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao provides Guardiola with the chance for a 14th trophy to close one of the most successful coaching spells of any team. He’s also helped elevate his team to perhaps one of football’s greatest of all time.
But instead of a smooth send-off, Guardiola appeared to be showing the strain of questions over his exit, including from former Barcelona great Johan Cruyff.
Guardiola said Tito Vilanova’s appointment was never a surprise and that his longtime friend would do just fine after taking over.
“It feels like in the last couple of days this idea that Pep has to explain his relationship with Tito has emerged. Tito has helped make me the coach I am today after five years together,” Guardiola said on Thursday from the Camp Nou.
He explained the idea was first floated in November before the Champions League exit to Chelsea led him to push Vilanova toward the post.
“After the loss to Chelsea I called Tito into my office and told him I didn’t have the necessary strength to continue on.”
Guardiola expects Vilanova to do well despite Cruyff’s questioning over the club’s future in an interview with newspaper El Periodico on Thursday.
“With Guardiola going it’s the end of a cycle and the start of a new one. He was the one in charge and now who will lead? We’ll see how it turns out,” Cruyff said.
The 41-year-old Guardiola said there were no regrets during his time in charge, without specifying on any particular successes. Dealing with Eric Abidal’s health concerns have been the toughest part of the job, while losing to Chelsea last month was also hard.
Guardiola was tense to start the 30-minute news conference as his relationship with president Sandro Rosell in the buildup to his exit continues to be questioned.
Rosell’s long-running problems with predecessor Joan Laporta, who hired Guardiola as the B team coach in 2007 before promoting him one year later, are reportedly behind the spat.
“Both (presidents) have always given me exactly what I needed to succeed,” Guardiola said. “When the club needs me I’ll be here. The club is what matters, I’ve never asked anything of it, I’ve always tried to do the best possible.
“Everyone’s contributed to this success, I haven’t done anything more.”
Guardiola said he would not return to working as a football pundit in the
future as he takes a sabbatical from the job. He is listening to offers with the most enticing suitor able to count on his return.
“I will receive all the calls with pleasure, but for the next month I have to recharge my batteries, recharge my mind,” Guardiola said. “I will be ready (to return) if one club wants me and seduces me.”
Date created : 2012-05-25