Will Guardiola take a break from football or make straight for the Bridge
21:30 GMT, 26 April 2012
It will be remembered as the long goodbye of resignations if — as expected — Pep Guardiola confirms he will not be continuing as Barcelona head coach next season.
He told the club’s sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, last November that he did not feel he had the physical and mental strength for another season in charge.
The doubts were expressed as his assistant, Tito Vilanova, had emergency surgery to remove a tumour on a gland in his throat. He was urged to reconsider and Vilanova’s return to work encouraged the club to think he would change his mind.
Plenty to ponder: Pep Guardiola looks set to leave Barcelona
But the months have passed with no extension signed on his contract, which ends in June, and after Barcelona’s chances of retaining the league and Champions League ended this week he was urged to make a decision for the good of the club.
Hours after Barca’s exit from the Champions League at the hands of Chelsea, the 41-year-old coach met club president Sandro Rosell, Zubizarreta, club vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Vilanova to discuss his future. The breakfast meeting lasted three hours and on Thursday night, as the club remained tight-lipped, no news was being seen as not good news by the club’s supporters.
The last coach to leave, Frank Rijkaard, took a year off after the strains of coaching at the Nou Camp. Roman Abramovich, who has made no secret of his desire to take Guardiola to Stamford Bridge, must wait to see if Guardiola wants to copy Rijkaard.
Next Guardiola is wanted by Chelsea despite Roberto Di Matteo's fine work
Guardiola is fond of London and has never made a secret of his wish to coach in England one day, having missed out on the experience as a player.
He will talk to his players on Friday morning before training. Barca club captain Xavi Hernandez, speaking before last week’s El Clasico, said: ‘We don’t talk about it in the dressing room. We want him to continue, but it is up to him.’
Guardiola’s ability to lift the squad has been one of the factors in his decision. He said last season: ‘After a certain time in charge they just get tired of you and you of them.’
He has left out key players this season, with Gerard Pique and Dani Alves starting the first and second legs respectively against Chelsea on the bench.
Decisions: Guardiola has not been slow to drop players such as Gerard Pique
‘Pique leads a full life,’ said his coach ahead of the second leg — a reference to the player’s off-the-field profile overshadowing his on-field performances this season. The hugely successful coach has moved on big names in the past but this season it appears he will be the one to depart.
Guardiola’s agent Josep Maria Orobitg has received offers throughout the season and Chelsea’s interest is an open secret. If Guardiola confirms his decision to leave he will take three weeks to consider his plans.
Barcelona could wait until the end of the season to appoint Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa or move now for former Barcelona player Ernesto Valverde, who has quit Olympiakos after winning his third Greek Super League. Valverde has worked with Zubizarreta at Athletic Bilbao.