Adeu, Pep Guardiola! Moltes gracies per tot! UPDATE

Remember this guy?
Now he's THIS guy. In four years.

BREAKING: New coach is Tito Vilanova!

Pep Guardiola’s coaching career with FC Barcelona began in 2007, when he was announced as coach of the B team. He grabbed that team by the scruff of the neck, led it to a championship and promotion. When Joan Laporta subsequently announced, a year later, that he was to be coach of the first team, there was a lot of reaction, most of it bewildered.

He was to helm a club that had gone silverless for two seasons under its beloved coach Frank Rijkaard, and what the hell could some guy who was just running the B team do?

Only win every trophy that the club contested that season, 6 of them, the vaunted Treble (Copa del Reig, La Liga and Champions League) and an award from doctors, as jaws had to be re-set from hitting the floor.

That man, that great coach who is Blaugrana and cule to his core, announced today that he is leaving the club at which he started as a ballboy, for very simple reasons of fatigue and loss of the enthusiasm necessary to give as much as he does for the team that he loves.

We all knew that this day would come, because Guardiola himself warned us that it would. In thinking of Guardiola’s tenure, I recall the first time I had gelato at this little place just off La Rambla, called Patagonia. It was a double-dip of chocolate and vanilla. It was so good, I began taking smaller bites, to delay the onset of the bottom of that cup coming up. So it was with Guardiola, who told us all, time and again that he wasn’t a coach for the long-term.

From the onset, his contracts were structured as one-year deals, so that he could follow his famous “feeling.” He always said that only he would know when it was time to leave, but that when he chose to leave, it would be for the good of the club.

Now is that time.

We can leave whether he is correct about his decision for another post, another time. For now, this is the time, and the place, to say “Thank you” to the coach who has made our beloved club the stuff of legend, who fashioned the team that we so adore into something that generations will speak about with reverence. Because unlike great clubs that did everything except win silver, Guardiola’s Barca won silver, but it did more than that.

He came in and jettisoned Deco and the great Ronaldinho, and people questioned the moves, but he knew. He also wanted to sell Samuel Eto’o, who convinced him that he could be part of the program, so Eto’o stayed. Then he took players who were jaded, a damaged locker room, and in the span of a pre-season, fashioned that mess into a Blaugrana fist, one that pressed, passed, ran, defended by attacking and brought concepts of total football into bright, shining life. In 2009, facing a Manchester United side with suspensions and injured players, a United side that boasted the great Wrongaldo, Guardiola’s Barca grabbed an early smash-and-grab goal against the run of play, then proceeded to play the style that the world now knows as tika-taka, until the littlest giant, Lionel Messi, headed home for an insurmountable lead.

“Sure, that was this year, but let’s see next year.” The next year, he did it again, winning the Liga, and being stopped in Champions League only by a freakin’ volcano, in a hotly contested Champions League semi-final tie against Inter Milan and Jose Mourinho, one that cules will say was unjustly ajudicated in both legs, but still, there is only the result.

He began to integrate B team talents into the first team, with the likes of Pedro Rodriguez and Sergi Busquets, who many now consider one of the best DMs in the world. He brought up Thiago Alcantara, Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello, and has more talent waiting in the wings, talent all reared in a system that values more than physical ability — intelligence, calmness with the ball, vision and further, foresight. In a favorite quote, Guardiola said that “The key is that these are the best players in the world. Without this, there are no coaches who can perform miracles, less so, me.”

But in the argument that many have offered, that anybody could with with Lionel Messi, that isn’t entirely true. Rijkaard had a ton of world-class talent, but lost that buy-in that you need from players to make them believe. But more than money, players want victories. And after two trophyless seasons, Guardiola took over a team that wanted to win. His timing was, then as now, perfect.

Later, when Jose Mourinho vaulted from Inter Milan to the Evil Empire, and people said “Heh, now there’s a REAL coach in La Liga. It’s go time.” And Guardiola did it again, laying a legendary, now-iconic manita on Barca’s most hated rival, and winning the La Liga and Champions League titles, losing the Copa del Reig in a memorable, and memorably violent final match.

And then came this season, his fourth, a season studded with injuries both minor and catastrophic, medical issues that threatened Eric Abidal and his faithful assistant Tito Vilanova, conspiracy theories and pretty much everything that you could shake a stick at. This season was, for me, his best coaching job because he took a tired, damaged side and fashioned it into something remarkable: a club that, in spite of everything that was going on, was only a few goals away from doing it all again. Ultimately, the fatigue, the injuries were too much to overcome, but it was the spirit and fire instilled in this club by this man, that enabled the group of players we enjoy watching so much, to come so close to beating the odds.

Now, the day that Guardiola warned us would come, is here. His “feeling” tells him that it is time to step down as head coach of FC Barcelona, for a much-needed sabbatical from the game. The real reasons that he stepped down are his own, so I will not speculate on them. But what I will say as a cule and a proud, proud socio, is thank you, Pep Guardiola. Thank you for the wins, the joy, the tears of joy and sadness, the amazing way that you took a group of coddled millionaires and made them into a family. It was only a family that would go to war for each other like that, in the way that they picked each other up, a new person working magic when someone else couldn’t. Thank you for reminding us again how beautiful football can be, played by players whose genius was fully unleashed by a system that wasn’t created by you, but that you utilized, tinkered with and adapted to their individual skill sets.

Thank you for the way that you brought beauty to the game, as an aesthete but also a radical who messed with established notions, who ran press conferences like a boss, who put up with so much until finally it was enough and you lashed out at the coach who became your nemesis, putting the verbal smack down in a glorious (and almost certainly calculated) way that energized your charges — they responded by putting the smack down on the pitch.

As with the way that this season ended, cules can’t be sad about your decision, because you always have to respect the decisions of people who are in full control of their personal lives. And from each and every ending is a new beginning. But also, it’s the joy that you brought to us all with your band of swashbuckling midgets. So for all that, for every last bit of that ….

Moltes gracies, Pep Guardiola!.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

237 comments

  1. My second comment on BFB and I was Hlebbed.
    Anyway, Thank you Pep for four glorious years of beautiful football and trophies. May Barcelona and you continue to succeed.
    Gracies Pep!!

    1. If I was there I would ask Pep if he is leaving this way cause what happenrd the past week

    2. That’s what it looks like. It was Tito who mentioned that they still had games to play and a strong Athletic to deal with before the end of the season.

    3. And to clear up any confusion, Pep Guardiola will continue until the end of the remaining season, with Vilanova taking over at the beginning of the 2012-13 term.

      From Goal.com

  2. goodbye pep, and i can’t thank you enough for the spectacle.
    maybe it’s a good thing you’re leaving. I can finally move on from this obsession.
    Tito is the best guy to succeed. It makes the bad news much more bearable. He definitely has the skills, knowledge and tactical nous, whether he has the charisma to demand the respect from the players remains to be seen.
    A sad sad day for all cules.

  3. guess tito and bielsa will do!! plus room ideas from pep, but hope he goes national teams not club sides. PEP OOOOOOOOH,OK such is life so Thank you!!!

  4. Thanks Pep.

    I imagined Tito might take over after Pep, but that was before he was diagnosed with cancer. But now? Not sure if that is good for his health. I’m surprised.

  5. If I was there I would ask Pep if he is leaving this way cause of the losses past week

  6. Gutted, grateful, and relieved all at once.

    Thank you for everything, Pep. I hope you come back someday.

    Tito Vilanova – perfect choice. The team is in good hands.

    😥

  7. Man with Tito becoming the coach, I feel sorry for his eyes….Being directly closer to Mou and all..

    1. Maybe all we BFB’ers should chip in and buy him a pair of ski goggles to wear during the clasicos. 😀

  8. This is a great outcome with Tito taking over. It’s the best solution in case Pep decides he wants to come back for the following season. It means that no other big-name coach will be asked to step aside, and I doubt that any big coach would take a year-to-year contract.

    So sad that Pep is leaving, but you can see the relief in his face. He’s smiling like a huge load has been lifted off him. Time to get a life, Pep!

    Very much looking forward to seeing the continuity with Tito.

    Visca Barça i visca Catalunya.

    1. Pep is the greatest coach in FCB history. What a career. As a player and coach! He can come back anytime he wants and he’ll be welcomed back with open arms. However, I don’t see him coming back in a years time. My guess is that he’ll want a new challenge. He is so intelligent, cultured, and sophisticated that he will want the challenge of coaching another league in another country. Most likey, the EPL. He loves the EPL and has stated this before. I could see him taking over for SAF in a years time or becoming the assitant for a year or two before SAF retires. It would be a great fit for him. Chelsea don’t deserve him. To small of a club. I thought Tito would take over but I wonder whether he can demand the respect from the players as a head coach. Don’t get me wrong, they respect him, but as an assitant. If the assitant role is anything close to it is in the states, then their primary role is to help the coach tactically and mentor the players as a friend or father like figure. It’s been hard for coaches in the states to move from assitant to head coach in the same team because the job requires a totally different approach and the players have to adjust to the realtionship changing. Most assistants move to another club to become the head coach. Just a thought.

  9. Thank you to Pep for everything he’s given us. Spectacular football and a beautiful team we’ll always remember.

    And now with Tito, he’s ensured that this era isn’t ending, but entering a new phase.

    Gracies Pep.

  10. From my fb newsfeed:

    “Dear Jose Mourinho, I hope you remember when you poked in a man’s eye about a year ago and later in the press conference you said, “I don’t know who Pito Vilanova is”. Well, that man now has the job you were rejected for.”

  11. Last fall, Pep announced to the board that he intended to leave at the end of this season. So they’ve known for a while.

    1. The players didn’t. They kept saying they were sure he would renew. I feel so bad for them. In one week they have lost the league, the CL, and the coach they love.

    2. that’s what gets under my skin, too. that’s a lot for them to go through all at once, after already giving so much and feeling like he would stay with them.

    3. That’s why I said that he announced it to the board.

      But at least the players have the continuity with Tito – someone they already know well.

      You can bet that Pep will keep in contact with Tito – it’s in his blood. He won’t be able to keep away. He’ll form a Cruyff-like liaison with Tito.

    4. I think Pep announced this right now to motivate the boys for the CDR final. They’ll want to send him out on a high. I can’t wait for the final now. It will be amazing!

  12. Thank you Pep for your unparalleled contribution to football these past for years.

    It’s only natural for him to take this break after four years of non-stop exertion. The culé in me is sad and a little distraught but the human being has the compassion to understand why he’s doing this. I think about his young children and almost want him to take time off.

    Man of pure class. és i será (hope that’s Catalan!)

  13. Tito’s appointment makes this a much easier pill to swallow.
    Tactically we’re in good hands. Guess we get to find out how strong Tito is to deal with the rest of the non-technical crap that aged Pep so quickly.

    Barcastuff says the players didn’t even know it would be Tito but heard it at the presser for the first time.

    1. Pep says he can do it. In Pep we trust.

      Tito? Been at the club forever. I believe he even oached some of our stars at the youth level.

  14. wow i am very excited for this…but i am sad for Pep leaving…damn so many conflicting emotions!!

  15. Nobody saw that replacement coming, right? (at least not the press)

    I wonder why… it’s actually the most obvious choice. I like it a lot!
    Probably everybody though Tito would not work without Pep.

    Moltes Gracies, Pep, for giving us the best years of our life 🙂

  16. as the presser goes on, he looks younger and happier every few moments. his color is even getting better.

    his smile talking about Leo and Abi and Keita glowed.

  17. My only concern is that I hope the pressure in being the boss does not get to Tito since he was always the assistant before. He may need a while to adjust but I’m interested in seeing him in this new light.

    We hardly know much about him and his personality, is he assertive to point as Pep or will he carry his quiet demeanor we know him now into as the coach.

    Barcastuff: Messi, who is not at the press conference, is affected by Guardiola’s exit. He already talked with the coach personally.

    Know many tears were shed….

  18. I hope the board has faith in Tito and perseveres with him even if we don’t get off to the best start next season..

  19. by the way, never said it before, but I really love the name TITO VILANOVA, sounds sooo cool ! 🙂

    Also, with Tita as our new head coach, the door for a possible return of Pep in one or two years will always be open. I bet he would gladly work with Pep in as soon as Pep feels good enough again.
    The so-called candidates in the press, Blanc, AVB, even Bielsa – they would not have accepted a one-year-deal, as a sort of placeholder for Pep.
    Ok, maybe Pep does not want to return ever again, but Tito’s appointment leaves the door open for him, more than any other appointment would have done!

  20. I didn’t think I could possibly be happy any time soon for a while, let alone tonight. But then just like any great sports movie, always with the dramatic flourish. Turning our tears into smiles with a grand shocking surprise straight out of left field. What a remarkable man. How does he even do it? Pep has become so much a symbol- of Barcelona, of Catalonia, of idealism and honor and humility and principle, of choosing the right over the easy, of being his own man in a world where you could be cynical about the intentions and motivations of everything else- you’d think it was impossible for a man to live up to that every day, every moment. But even as you leave you do it with proper narrative.

    Just when we’re depressed that you’re going be gone, worried the next manager might break with continuity and the system, scared Rosell and the board might interfere and hire a bad choice, you go announcing Tito as successor so it’s almost like you’re not even gone. Just a phone call away and remaining in spirit. It’s better than any fiction could ever be.

    Well I guess what this means is that the very specific culture starting from the Pep era will remain in the club. The youth teams all playing the same formations and styles, the best young players getting to play in an age group above their bracket to be challenged, the B team getting a mix of older veterans to stay in a high division so the youth get more competitive football, the culture of intense fitness and training (note the fruits eaten even post-game and the constant training of technique), the tailored and technological routines for individual players like Messi and the emphasis on discipline, the very tight emphasis on conservative possession and rabid pressing. Maybe Pep will come back someday, maybe we will keep on having managers from the same school like Tito Vilanova and Luis Enrique and the like.

    It seems we will be keeping our faith with this culture and an even more defined identity, the way we have stuck with a general Cruyff template since the Dream Team era. Which is only a good thing. Deviating from identity hasn’t done us well since the Dream Team era, and the success of this era seems to have validated various specific aspects enough to become an identity-template for Barcelona from now on the way that the success of the Cruyff era validated specific aspects from then (youth, passing, possession, etc) to remain keystones until this date. Which can only be a good thing. If, for example, discipline and pressing and constant running become part of ‘Barca play’ as permanently as passing, possession and flair became in that era. Or if the setup of youth teams continue in this model (aiming to mix with experienced players and stay in high competitive divisions) as an institutional policy, not merely a coach-mandated thing. That’s only a good thing for us. Pep has left us with a wonderful legacy. Not only trophies, beauty, love and memories, a sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves. But he’s even left the club in a great situation to go ahead in the future.

    1. Outerspacedout,

      Thanks for eloquently saying what I felt. Amazing how all of us feel a part of something so much bigger than any 1 individual or team.

  21. Well from what I’m reading on Tito, it seems he has extensive knowledge about the youth players and was key in the who and when to promote.

  22. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…

    Thank you Pep! Welcome and good luck Tito!

  23. For me, this blog and group of commenters is all tangled up with Pep. I started reading the Offside Barça page right when Pep was appointed coach. I remember everyone’s doubts, that first loss in Liga, and how it all turned to wonder and that rallying cry of “In Pep We Trust.” Very sad he’s leaving, but can be nothing but grateful for what he’s achieved with this group of players. Incalculable.

    Best of all luck to Tito Vilanova! Look forward to his continued work at the club.

    #somiserem

  24. I wonder if Pep, in a year or so can help Messi out with his NT before WC 2014, then come back to us after making Messi a WC Champion.

    Dream scenario right?

    1. well, its the day you’re supposed to grow up and become a man; maybe a perfect way.

    2. Keith,

      Really? Who told you that? If so, I missed the boat. I’m 33 and still waiting! lol

  25. Thanks for the wonderful memories over the last four years. You will be dearly missed. The ideal coach, the ideal man.

    Thanks Pep.

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