Tito Vilanova named successor to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona
Tito Vilanova was named as the shock replacement for outgoing Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola on a morning of high drama at the Camp Nou.
The decision was announced at a press conference where Guardiola sat alongside club president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.
Zubizarreta explained that when Guardiola had told him that he was “completely drained”, the obvious choice had been to promote 'Tito'. “Tito represents our play and our ideas,” said Zubi. “Nobody from outside can do this, so we looked in-house. It was an easy decision. He is different than Pep, that is clear, but we will work with the same idea, the same profile. Talking with Guardiola too, we saw we should take this direction.”
Vilanova, who underwent an operation to remove a cancerous tumour last November, will take charge at least for the 2012/13 season, but not attend this morning's press conference.
Barca’s players including their four ‘captains’ Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández, Andres Iniesta and Víctor Valdés sat and watched as Guardiola himself backed the decision 100 per cent.
“The club has made the right decision with Tito,” said Pep. “He has all my admiration, for all he has helped me. The players know him, there will be very few changes to what has been done until now. He will give the players what I can no longer give. The players are in good hands with Tito, they will keep moving forward.”
Guardiola had moments earlier explained why he felt he had to step down after four successful but draining seasons in charge. “I no longer have the energy and drive to get the most out of the players in every game,” he said. “I need to take a break and relax. After all I have given - the life and the energy - I need to make way for someone else. The president offered me another post, but I need to get away from the madness of football and recharge my batteries.
"This is not an easy decision,” he added. “I have also thought that short contracts were necessary at Barcelona due to the demands of the job. Four years is an eternity as Barcelona coach. I am the third-longest serving coach in the club’s history. Coaches do not last long at this club.”
Guardiola communicated his final decision to club president Rosell and Zubizarreta at the coach’s own home for three hours on Wednesday, the morning after Barca’s painful exit from the Champions League to Chelsea.
Rosell reportedly offered Pep “whatever you want” to continue and asked him to take his time with the decision. Everyone at the club remained tight-lipped yesterday, although the rumour-mill tilted towards it being more likely that he would leave.
Guardiola arrived at the Nou Camp this morning at 9AM and held a meeting with players and technical staff which ran longer than scheduled as he explained his decision. This delayed the start of the morning’s training session by half an hour and the press conference was also put back as everyone waited and tried to read the signs.
Vilanova was first noticed by many when he was involved in the infamous ‘poke in the eye’ incident with Real Madrid coach José Mourinho during last August’s Spanish Supercopa final second leg at the Camp Nou. He and Guardiola have known each other from their days together as young players at the club. When Pep took over as Barcelona B coach in summer 2007, he called Vilanova to be his assistant and the two have worked closely together since.
In their four seasons together in charge of the first team, Barcelona won 13 trophies - including three La Liga crowns, two Champions Leagues and two World Club Cups. Despite losing out to Chelsea in Europe, and likely Real Madrid in this season’s Spanish league, they could claim a 14th title (out of 19 entered) in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao next month. Even for a club as huge and storied as Barcelona, it has been an exceptionally successful era.
Guardiola denied having met with any potential future employers (including Chelsea) and said he did not know now what his future held. “I will return to coaching sooner or later, but now I want to rest and do other things,” he said. “I do not know how long. We will see where life brings me.”