As was announced in media all over the world including BBC Sport
, Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola
is leaving his post as manager of one of the most renowned franchises in soccer, FC Barcelona
, on June 30, when his contract with the Spanish team expires.
He leaves his hometown club with a victory rate over 70 per cent and 13 titles in four years at the helm of Barça’s A-team. He may yet add a 14th cup to the Blaugrana’s trophy case. Barcelona faces Athletic Bilbao in the final for the Copa del Rey on May 25.
He may have been the 15th manager
in club history, but few, if any, have left their mark as deeply etched as Guardiola.
What else can one say about a man who has won the UEFA Champions League as a player and a manager (only five others have managed that feat), was the first manager to win the soccer treble (league champion, Copa del Rey and Champions League champion) in the 21st century and was the first manager to win six titles (Spanish league, Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Supercup and FIFA Club World Cup) in one year. Perhaps, just to prove that the 2009 sextuple was not a fluke, Guardiola led Barça to winning five of the six titles in 2011 (Barcelona was a finalist in the Copa del Rey that year, but lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in overtime). His record
speaks for itself.
Guardiola all but defined the way soccer is, or should be, played. He is fond of attacking his opponents and moving the ball by maintaining control rather than chase after it. With that tactic, it is easy to understand why Barcelona usually dominates in terms of ball possession and shots on goal. He is meticulous in preparing his team for a game. He studies videos and his own notes from previous games. He is a supreme motivator.
Good teams become great under the leadership of great coaches. Barcelona had a historic past
before Guardiola and will, undoubtedly, thrive again without Guardiola. Let’s face it, the team still has Lionel Messi, arguably the best soccer player in the world today. But even the mighty Messi can only carry Barça so far on his diminutive shoulders… or feet, in this case. As Messi’s fortunes go so goes Barcelona.
Guardiola’s departure, at the end of the season, leaves Tito Vilanova holding the reigns of the perennial Spanish powerhouse. If anyone is qualified to carry on the legacy, it is Vilanova, who has been working as Guardiola’s assistant since 2007.
What the future holds for Guardiola remains to be seen. He has been linked to Chelsea FC, in the English Premier League, something he denies. For now, Guardiola says he needs time to recharge.
“You can only recover by resting and getting away from everything,” says the Barcelona manager. “It would have been a bad idea to continue. Perhaps it would not have gone wrong but I have the perception that it would. It is my time to go.”
One thing is for certain, Pep Guardiola has left the bar hanging at a pretty lofty level.