Guardiola to quit Barcelona?
Sky Sports sources understand that Pep Guardiola has told Barcelona he will leave the club at the end of the season.
Boss set to leave the club in the summer
The Barcelona boss has guided the Catalan giants to two UEFA Champions League titles in his four seasons with the club as well as a host of other trophies.
But the former Barca star’s future has been a source of constant speculation for months and the 41-year-old is understood to have finally confirmed he intends to bring his time at the club to an end.
A joint press conference will be held by Guardiola and Barcelona president Sandro Rosell on Friday morning at 11am.
Rosell, who has met with Guardiola at length in the last 24 hours, remains hopeful that he may yet have a change of heart and opt to remain at the helm.
The decision follows Barcelona’s sensational exit from the Champions League at the hands of Chelseain Tuesday’s semi-final.
Sky Sports’ Spanish football expert Guillem Balague believes Guardiola could be planning to try his luck as a manager in the Premier League before long.
Balague told Sky Sports: “He has the urge to coach in another place. He wants to come to the Premier League.
“He couldn’t make it here as a player. He was close to joining Wigan at one point I believe. Manchester United wanted him at some point, Liverpool and Spurs, but it didn’t happen.
“And as a manager he wants to prove himself in the Premier League.”
Guardiola’s potential arrival in England would raise the possibility of some of Barcelona’s famous players linking up with him in the Premier League.
And while Balague does not rule out the prospect, he believes a fresh voice may be what his current players need.
Asked about the chance of Barca’s superstars coming to England, Balague said: “It’s a good point because they are very close to him; they’ve grown to be better players with him.
“But at the same time, four years with the same manager, seeing the same face, you wonder if that is one of the reasons Guardiola, if he decides to leave, will leave.”
And Balague notes there has already been speculation as to who will replace Guardiola as Barcelona manager next season.
“We have got four names that have been mentioned,” he added. “Four names that are very much liked by president Sandro Rosell and the director of football Andoni Zubizarreta.”
The four managers that have been earmarked are believed to include Athletic Bilbao’s maverick Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa and ex-Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.
The two names making up the list of candidates are both former Barcelona players – France boss Laurent Blanc and Ernesto Valverde, who quit as Olympiakos manager last week.
A further possibility could be another former team-mate of Guardiola’s, Roma boss Luis Enrique.
The 41-year-old spent eight years with the club as a player and three years coaching the B team before leaving for Italy last summer.
The options are believed to have already been lined up as a contingency plan should Guardiola decide upon a sabbatical.
Balague is also keen to rubbish suggestion this is a knee-jerk reaction to Barcelona’s Champions League defeat to Chelsea in midweek.
He added: “Let me tell you a little story because I have been writing the biography of Guardiola. For six months he has been thinking of leaving.
“He had had it at the back of his mind and he uses it a bit as a mechanism because if he thinks he is going to stay another four years at Barcelona that would kill him because of the exhaustion of how he works; the amount of hours he puts in.
“This is not a decision just based on results or players that don’t want him anymore or problems in the changing room. It just comes to the point where he tells the chairman he just cannot continue.
“The question is, would that blank cheque – the possibility to do anything he wanted at Barcelona – change his mind? I don’t know. We will certainly know tomorrow (Friday’s press conference).”
With Guardiola’s spell in charge set to come to an end, thoughts turn to where he fits in among the pantheon of great coaches in Barcelona’s history.
Balague believes Guardiola’s achievements cannot be measured in terms of mere trophies, despite there being 13 of them during his time at the helm and the possibility of a 14th next month if Barca beat Athletic in the Copa del Rey final.
“He would say that Johan Cruyff was a bigger manager than him because not only has he won consecutive league titles, one European Cup and one final of another European Cup, It’s just the fact that Johan Cruyff changed the mentality of the club.
“But it is certain that he has taken the club to another level – a coach beyond titles. The style in which he has done it, the way he has made Messi the player that he is.
“It’s just now you can see, talk to Brendan Rodgers, talk to Roberto Martinez, the influence of Pep Guardiola goes well beyond Barcelona.”