It’s official. Pep Guardiola will not be FC Barcelona first team coach next season. President Sandro Rosell confirmed the news in a pres conference with Guardiola and Andoni Zubizaretta and also announced that Tito Vilanova will be the new coach! Guardiola confirmed that the decision was taken last autumn and that he informed the club directors though not the players. He apologised for the uncertainty created by keeping his decision a secret and confessed it may have been a mistake. He says he will now take a rest before deciding on what he will do in the future.
Guardiola spoke of the intensity needed for the job and his reasons for only signing one-year contracts, as he recognises that a club as important as Barça need a coach who has a passion and desire to do the job. He recalled the excitement he felt when he was asked to coach Barça B in 2007 and then again a year later when he was offered the first team job. He obviously feels he has given as good as he he’s got and genuinely feels that it is the best decision for the club.
When Guardiola took over as coach in 2008 I never thought we would get more than three years from him, the intensity at which he works was transmitted to the team but there was always the worry than he would burn himself out. Guardiola appears to be a complex thinker who despite a great passion for football, for Barça and for Catalunya, is capable of recognizing the personal sacrifices needed in order to do the job to the best of his ability. When he claimed that his decision would be the best one for Barça a while back I have no doubt that he was being sincere. It seems he feels that he cannot guarantee a continuation of his success and therefore it is better to move on before the decline can begin. You could make a case today to say that we should have got rid off Frank Rijkaard and Ronaldinho after the final in Paris in 2006. Nobody even thought it at the time, but that great team was already in decline. It is quite possible that this is what Guardiola was worried about.
The choice of Tito Vilanova comes as a surprise but more because there are worries over his health. If he feels well enough to do the job then I think it is an excellent choice. The strength of Football Club Barcelona is that there is now a fixed philosophy that runs through the club of how the game should be played. Tito has been the brain behind the tactics and we can be sure that the Barça style of playing will not change. We would do well to remember the great Liverpool team of the 70s and 80s. Bill Shankly left the legacy and success continued under Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish because they maintained a philosophy of how things should be done. Of course the Liverpool method had its own particularities, but the point is the club continued to have success for 15 years after Shankly left until Graeme Souness arrived with a new way of doing things.
Tito will face new challenges and it will be a big test of his character. There will be doubters amongst fans and in the press but it seems at least the club is sure of the desire to continue with the same model that has brought so much recent success, and that should be applauded. As Zubizaretta said, if we need a player the first place we look for one is in the house, and with that philosophy we have uncovered the Pedros, Busquets and Cuencas, so on needing a new coach we looked at home.
It only remains to thank Guardiola for all he has given us. “Four years is an eternity as Barça coach” he claimed today. Obviously he gave all he had for those years and we should be grateful we got to experience such success combined with such glorious football. A page is turned in our great club’s history. Gràcies Pep i bona sort!