Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola steps down

Barcelona: Pep Guardiola stepped down as Barcelona coach on Friday, bringing to a close a glittering four-year reign that has delivered 13 trophies.

Despite developing one of the greatest teams world football has ever seen, Guardiola said the demands of the job had taken their toll and his last game in charge will be the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on May 25.

His assistant Tito Vilanova will take over next season.

"The reason is simple, four years are long and they wear you down," Guardiola said Friday after president Sandro Rosell announced he would not continue. "I think that sincerely that the next person will have things to bring that I 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."

The 41-year-old Guardiola has led Barcelona to 13 trophies since replacing Frank Rijkaard at the beginning of the 2008-09 season, including two Champions League crowns and three Spanish league titles.

But his announcement on Friday ends a difficult week for the team that saw it exit the Champions League semi-finals to Chelsea following a loss to Real Madrid which will likely cost it a fourth straight Spanish title.

"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 told a news conference at the Camp Nou stadium, where players such as Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique watched on, although Lionel Messi was not in attendance. "I didn't mean to create this kind of mood."

Guardiola said he took the decision in December but preferred to wait until the team's chase for major trophies was out of the way. Guardiola had extended his contract by February of the past two seasons but his decision not to do so this season had created uncertainty and, possibly distractions, inside the club.

"In December I told the president and sport director that I saw the end of my stint here, but I had the problem that I couldn't tell my players. That is why I took so long," said Guardiola, who departs as the European powerhouse's most successful coach of all time.

Under the former Spain international, Barcelona doubled its number of Champions League trophies with wins in 2009 and 2011, claimed three straight Spanish league titles, won two Club World Cups, two European Super Cups, three Spanish Super Cups and one Copa del Rey.

Guardiola's rivalry with Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has also been one of the most engaging La Liga storylines since the Portuguese coach's arrival at Madrid in 2010, as their once seemingly normal relationship as former Barcelona employees descended into acrimony with each of the 11 "clasicos" played between the teams over the past two seasons.

Vilanova has been Guardiola's right-hand man since the pair took over Barca B in 2007-08, earning the team promotion to the second division.

"Why Tito?" sport director Andoni Zubizarreta said. "Because he represents the game, the analysis, the preparation, he puts the extra hour into preparation, he has the capacity and the personality to be here because we know him. So we decided to look inside our house and it was easy."

Guardiola did not reveal his plans for the future except for saying he would like to return to coaching again sooner rather than later.

"I think the club is right (on Tito). He is more than qualified, and the players know him, he will change very little of what we do, and he will give a lot to the players and club," Guardiola said. "I can't fool myself that I have the same energy as before.

Bureau Report