Pep Guardiola, who will step down as Barcelona coach after the Copa del Rey final on May 25, cited fatigue for ending his hugely successful four-year run that included three La
Liga and two Champions League titles.
"Four years is an eternity at Barcelona," Guardiola said. "I am the coach who has the third most number of games in the history of the club -- that tells you how difficult it is here. Time wears everything down. I could not go on. Coming here day after day, over and over again, wears you out. A coach needs energy to be at his best and the only way to get that back is to take a break and distance myself [from here]. I needed to get away from it all. ...
"Sooner or later, I might coach again, but I don't know when. At the moment I am interested in other things: there is more beyond soccer. Life will take me where it takes me."
The 41-year-old Guardiola, who guided Barca to a total of 13 titles, including two Club World Cup crowns, added: "I reached a point where I could have carried on as a coach but not in the way that a Barcelona coach should. I feel profoundly sorry, from the very deepest part of me, that I no longer have that energy that I once did. I have too much consideration for my players to carry on without that enthusiasm. I am so grateful to them: it has been a privilege to train them. They have turned ideas into reality on the field many times and there is no greater joy for a coach than that."
These comments from Pep are precious to coaches all over the world. The toll that a season takes on the manager and his family is immense. I applaud Pep's reasoned professional choice. Of course, it is easier to make that choice when you pull in the type of salaries these mega coaches demand. I'll just have to reinvent myself for the next season, as my finances are a little tighter.
Now we won't (yet) get to find out how good a trainer Pep Guardiola is. How much more now can we appreciate the longevity of coaches/trainers at the top like Arsene Wenger and, as much as it hurts me to say it, Alex Ferguson. Maybe it is "easier" for them because they are men well past middle age? Whereas Pep still feels young and has a young family with kids still in the home? I say that we won't get to find out how good Pep is because it takes several player and seasons of transitions to see if a coach/trainer/leader can keep the superlatives coming. Specifically, we'd learn how good Guardiola really is when David Villa, Dani Alves, C. Puyol (the heart and soul of the team), Xavi, and V. Valdes are gone, too old to continue. For right now, how does Barca replace Eric Abidal and what new center back would a Guardiola infuse into the squad? What forward do they acquire? We won't have opportunity to learn these things. Wenger does this better than any modern day coach at this top level -- the great caveat being that these "top coaches" have gobs of money to lure in players to aid these transitions. A lesser known man at German side SV Werder Bremen, Thomas Schaaf, does this now for over a twelve years with his partner manager Klaus Aloffs. I'll take nothing away from how hard it is to BE at FC Barca as a team leader. Nobody here talks about the 24/7 incessant politicing that is part of this club -- things that have nothing to do with constant interaction with the team medical staff on player fitness, preparing players mentally for various distinctly different opponents, e.g. Italian style play (all the recent clashes with AC Milan) or facing Santos in December, sprint drills, player confidence building. The club president is far more important than any other figure in all of northeast Spain. The club is a regional statement for a region with many rocky relationships (cultural, business, social, even legal) with all of southern Spain and Madrid the capital region in particular. There are three newspapers that survive just on FC Barca reporting (to include non stop gossiping) And this club is in perpetual massive debt with soap opera drama chapters involving lawyers, accountants, businessmen, business ventures almost monthly. Somehow a fully resourced club like Barca ought to figure out how to lessen the exposure of a good trainer to all of that (and all of the media nonsense), and then, perhaps, a trainer would not reach burn-out so quickly -- if that is what this stepping down in May 2012 truly is. Or does Pep, like most men his age, have no idea truly how to cope with this? Is he another lost soul? Maybe the job just is too large due to all the non-stop off-pitch politicing, functionary, and media darling duties?
I think this job was so hard because Pep established a previously unthinkable standard for this team. It wasn't enough to win games, to beat Madrid, to win La Liga and the Champions league, to win them again, to dominate possession, to score 4 goals a game, and many more. This team wanted to change the game. When you change the conceptions about what is possible on the field, and you have given everything you have to do that, and then you achieve it, it makes perfect sense to me that you would need some time to step away and re-charge. Ferguson and Wenger are incredible managers, but what they set out to do is different from what Guardiola achieved.