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Pep Guardiola to leave Barcelona at end of season

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola will leave the club at the end of this season after deciding not to renew his contract.

Guardiola spoke to the players before training this morning with reports in Catalonia suggesting he has decided not to renew his contract which expires in the summer and will quit the Nou Camp after four hugely successful years as coach.

He is set to announce his decision at 1330 local time (1230BST) alongside Barca president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.

Guardiola is thought to have met with Rosell, vice-president for sport Josep Maria Bartomeu and Zubizarreta on Wednesday - the day after Barca were eliminated from the Champions League by Chelsea - and indicated his desire to leave.

At the club's request he promised to give it further thought but emerged with the same decision.

Guardiola stepped up from Barca B manager to first-team boss in 2008 and has gone on to become the most successful coach in the club's illustrious history.

He has led the azulgrana to two Champions League crowns, three La Liga trophies, one Copa del Rey, three Supercopas, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.

But the setback against Chelsea came just 72 hours after Barca's hopes of retaining their Primera Division crown were dashed following a 2-1 defeat at home to arch rivals Real Madrid.

That loss left them seven points behind Jose Mourinho's men with four games remaining and also ended their domestic dominance.

Guardiola led Barca to the Primera Division title in his first season in charge after masterminding a squad overhaul which saw the likes of Ronaldinho and Deco shipped out and a greater emphasis placed on youth.

The results were immediate.

Not only did Barca win the league - the highlight being a 6-2 thrashing of Madrid at the Bernabeu - but they also claimed the Copa del Rey and Champions League crowns.

The 2009/10 campaign kicked off with further success in the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA World Club Cup as Barca became the first club side to claim six major trophies in one calendar year.

They failed to defend their Champions League crown after being eliminated by Mourinho-led Inter Milan at the semi-final stage but retained their La Liga title with a record points total of 99.

With Madrid hiring Mourinho in a bid to end Barca's run of success, the 2010/11 season was supposed to pose new challenges for Guardiola.

But the former Spain midfielder, having signed David Villa to replace the ineffectual Zlatan Ibrahimovic, guided Barca to the league title once more and they backed that up by claiming the Champions League crown once more by defeating Manchester United at Wembley.

Cesc Fabregas joined from Arsenal in the summer of 2011 as Guardiola again placed his faith in products of the famed La Masia academy and while the free-flowing football remained, long winning runs were punctuated with surprise defeats.

The Spanish Super Cup and UEFA Super Cup were claimed, as was the FIFA Club World Cup, but La Liga setbacks against the likes of Getafe and Osasuna undermined their title challenge.

Barca have qualified for the final of the Copa del Rey next month in which they will meet Athletic Bilbao in what is set to be Guardiola's final game in charge.

Speculation has already started as to who will replace Guardiola with Ernesto Valverde, Marcelo Bielsa and Laurent Blanc all thought to be in the frame.

As for Guardiola, he is expected to take a sabbatical from the game despite being linked with numerous jobs across Europe.

He has been suggested as a contender for the England job, but Press Association Sport understands that not to be the case.

Belfast Telegraph


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