Guardiola set to bring down the curtain at Barça

 

Pep Guardiola is expected to walk away from FC Barcelona today, four years and 13 trophies after taking over.

Desperate not to lose their most successful coach, the club were hoping for a change of heart but after a three-hour meeting on Wednesday morning with the Barcelona president Sandro Rosell that U-turn looks unlikely.

Roman Abramovich, who has made no secret of his desire to bring Guardiola, right, to Chelsea, must now wait to see if he walks away from football for a year or straight into the club that has just knocked him out of the Champions League.

Guardiola will inform his players of his decision and then make it public in a joint press conference with Rosell.

The two men met director of football Andoni Zubizarreta, club vice- president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Guardiola's assistant Tito Vilanova just hours after the exit to Chelsea, and Rosell offered his coach full control over decision-making and a blank chequebook. But Guardiola already had the final say over almost all club matters, and loosening financial restraints over next summer's signings also seems to have been irrelevant.

Chelsea have already contacted his agent, Josep Maria Orobitg. But having taken the decision to walk away, Guardiola is now expected to take a further three weeks to consider his future. He could still follow the lead of Barcelona's last outgoing coach, Frank Rijkaard, who took a year away from the game after leaving in 2008. What is not under consideration is taking a job with the English FA.

Guardiola told Zubizarreta in November that he did not feel he had the strength for another season. Those doubts were expressed at the time his assistant had emergency surgery to remove a tumour in his throat, and supporters had believed with Vilanova back at work Guardiola would change his mind and continue.

Guardiola has been strained by the intensity of his success at the club: in two of his four seasons Barça played every game possible and in the other two only fell at the semi-final stage of the Champions League.

The Athletic Bilbao coach, Marcelo Bielsa, and the former Barcelona player Ernesto Valverde, who has just quit Olympiakos after winning his third Greek Super League title, are seen as early options to replace Guardiola. Valverde has previously worked with Zubizarreta at Bilbao.

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