The 41-year-old, who has led Barça to a remarkable 13 trophies since taking the reigns at Camp Nou in 2008, will be replaced by Tito Vilanova – Guardiola’s assistant throughout his four years in charge of the club.
“I want you to understand that this is not a simple decision for me,” said Guardiola at a news conference on Friday, with the first-team squad in attendance.
“I hope that people understand me but if they don’t then there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m sorry for the confusion in recent weeks, it’s a mistake. People were telling me to say these things much earlier.
“I’ve always wanted short contracts because the demand from Barcelona is so big.
“I always thought that four years is an eternity for a coach. I didn’t want to have a contractual link that wouldn’t allow me to make the decisions I always wanted to make.
“At the beginning of December I told the chairman and director of football that I was seeing the end of my era at Barcelona, but obviously I couldn’t say that to the players so openly.
“I couldn’t have said that because it would have been all too complicated.
“Now we’re out of the two main competitions it’s a good moment to announce it. That’s why everything has taken so long.
“The reason is simple: four years is enough.
“The new coach will give things that I’m not able to give any more. To be in front of you every three days talking to you, all that is very demanding.
“That passion and that energy which is so necessary to continue – especially so the players listen to you – all that disappears.
“You can only recover that by resting and getting away from everything. It would have been a bad idea to continue.
“I know what I’m leaving. I know it’s the best possible place, a privileged place. But it’s my time to go.
“I want to thank my players who have been responsible for everything that has happened here. It’s been a great privilege to train them.”
• As a player, Guardiola came up through Barcelona’s youth ranks to win six Spanish Liga titles, one European Champion Clubs’ Cup, a Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup and two Copa del Rey trophies from 1990 to 2001.
• He also had spells with Brescia, Fabio Capello’s Roma, Al-Ahly in Doha and Mexico’s Dorados de Sinola before ending his playing career in 2006.
• He won 40 caps and Olympic footballing gold with Spain in 1992, but missed the 1998 and 2002 World Cup tournaments through injury.
• Having coached Barcelona’s B team, became the 15th Catalan-born boss of the senior team in 2008 and won the Champions League, Spanish Liga and Copa del Rey in his first season in charge.
• Success in the 2008-09 final made Guardiola the sixth man to lift the European Cup as a player and a coach. Barcelona followed up with victories in the Spanish and Uefa Super Cups at the start of 2009-10, going on to win the Fifa Club World Cup and retain the Liga title.
• He steered the Azulgrana to a third successive Liga crown and their fourth European Cup in 2010-11.
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