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The region of Catalunya bid a reluctant farewell to their prodigal son after Pep Guardiola announced his decision to leave the club at the end of the season. The 41 year old has been through a tumultuous two weeks with Barca during which they all but handed the league title to Real Madrid and suffered a shock Champions League semi-final defeat at the hands of Chelsea. Guardiola had a long discussion with Barcelona President Sandro Russell yesterday and broke the news to his players today morning before announcing his decision during an emotional press conference a few hours ago.
"I would like you to understand that this is not an easy decision for me," said Guardiola. "But I would like to explain my reasons for this decision. I have always wanted short-term contracts. Four years is an eternity as Barca coach. That passion is 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," he added.
The former Barcelona player, youth team coach and ball-boy was appointed as the manager in 2008 following the departure of Frank Rijkaard. Barca have enjoyed their most successful spell ever during this time, winning an astonishing 13 trophies, including three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues. Guardiola has elevated stars like Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta to great heights and his departure is bound to have an impact on the players.
But this has been coming though as the pressure associated with managing an almost national team in Barcelona is bound to wear down any manager. Their longest serving manager was Johan Cruyff, who lasted for eight years. Guardiola confirmed that, "In the month of October I announced to the president and to the sporting director that I thought my spell was coming to an end. 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."
Guardiola's assistant, Tito Vilanova has been named as the replacement, probably to provide continuation to the system. Real Madrid are currently the big dogs in Spain and the short cycles of success in the country will ensure that Jose Mourinho's men stay atop for the time being. But Messi & Co. cannot be kept quiet for too long but for now one of the greatest club relationships of the modern era has come to a sad end.
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