London, April 27 (IANS) Spanish football club Barcelona's most successful manager Pep Guardiola Friday confirmed he is quitting at the end of the season and the club appointed his assistant Tito Vilanova as his successor.
Guardiola, a former Barca player, has enjoyed a great four-year tenure at the Nou Camp. Under his leadership, Barca won the league title in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Champions League in 2009 and 2011 and the Copa del Rey in 2009.
The decision to quit comes after the Spanish giants were dumped out of the Champions League semi-final by Chelsea Tuesday and also losing to bitter rivals Real Madrid at home Saturday to end all hopes of retaining the league title.
Guardiola's last match at the helm of the Catalan club will be the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao May 25. His contract ends at the end of the season and he rejected Barcelona's offer to extend his tenure.
"I would like you to understand that this is not an easy decision for me. But I would like to explain my reasons for this decision," British media quoted Guardiola as saying while announcing his decision at a news conference at Nou Camp as players Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique watched on. Lionel Messi was not there.
"I have always wanted short-term contracts. Four years is an eternity as Barca coach. In the month of October I announced to the president (Sandro Rosell) and to the sporting director that I thought my spell was coming to an end.
Guardiola said that working at Barca had taken its toll on him and he needed a break. He also thanked the club and players for their support.
"The main reason why I have taken this decision is because four years is many years.
"I have given everything and I have nothing left and need to recharge my batteries. The demands have been great and I have not been able to rest much. I have to recover and the only way I can do that is by distancing myself. Otherwise, we would have ended up damaging each other.
"I know that I'm leaving the best place to work in. I am very satisfied with the result we have achieved. I have had the great privilege of coaching fantastic players. I want to thank them."
"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 said. "I didn't mean to create this kind of mood."
Guardiola played as a defensive midfielder and spent the majority of his playing career in Barcelona. He was part of Dutchman Johan Cruyff's dream team that won Barcelona's first European Cup.
He has also played for Italian clubs Brescia and AS Roma, Al-Ahli in Qatar and Mexican side Dorados de Sinaloa.
One of the lows in Guardiola's playing career was when he served a four-month ban for a positive drug test while playing in Italy although he was cleared of all wrongdoing twice on appeal in 2009 before the Courts of Justice of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) and the Federal Anti-Doping Courts of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).
Guardiola made his debut for Spain October 14, 1992, against Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifier. He captained the Spanish national squad that won a gold medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games.
After retiring as a player, Guardiola was appointed coach of Barcelona B side. In 2008 he was named manager of the first team to replace Dutchman Frank Rijkaard.
In his first season as manager, Barcelona won the treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League. In doing so, Guardiola became the youngest Champions League-winning manager ever.
Villanova, a former Barcelona B player, was Guardiola's assistant for more than five years.
Rosell hailed Guardiola's contribution and backed Vilanova to continue Barca's success.
He said: "Pep always takes the best decision for this club. It was his decision and it's a personal one and an understandable one.
Sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said the club thought promoting from within, as they did with Guardiola, was the best way forward.
He said: "We've always said that if the team needs players, we look at home first (Barca B). Who do we have here at home? Tito."
Vilanova was under spotlight last season when Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho gouged him in the eye in a pitch-side bust-up during El Clasico.
The decision to appoint the new coach so quickly came as a big surprise as there was speculation over the possible replacement and the names of Ernesto Valverde, Laurent Blanc and Marcelo Bielsa were doing the rounds to take over.
Guardiola welcomed Tito's choice.
"I think the club has taken the best decision possible.
"He is more than capable. The players know him. He will make few changes. He will give the club and these players something that I thought I could no longer give.
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