Guardiola bows out praising Messi
Outgoing Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola says Lionel Messi is likely to be the best player he will ever see.
Argentina international Messi netted his 73rd goal of the season during Barca’s 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey on Friday.
The victory at Estadio Vicente Calderon meant a winning send-off for Guardiola in what was the record-breaking coach’s final match in charge.
Guardiola, 41, has led Barca to 14 major honours in just four seasons at Camp Nou and paid special tribute to the contribution of superstar Messi.
“It has been an honour to be the coach of the best player I have ever seen and probably the best I will see,” Guardiola said.
“Messi taught me to be even more competitive. We would have won trophies without him, but not 14 from 19.”
After managing three successive Liga titles and two Champions League triumphs in Guardiola’s first three seasons, Barca missed out on league and European success this season.
But far from deeming the campaign a failure, the departing coach hailed 2011/12 as Barca’s best season yet, and predicted great things for the team under his successor Tito Vilanova.
“Football-wise, this has been the best season,” he said.
“We introduced new concepts. And next season, we’ll be even better.”
Guardiola’s Barca have been widely regarded as one of the best teams of all time, but the ever-humble tactician characteristically sought to play down his role in the club’s achievements.
“I didn’t invent anything,” he said.
“I’m just part of a process that started before me and will continue after me.”
“And the best team in history? (It) would be pretentious to call us that. Those are big words.”
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Guardiola appeared to leave the door open for a return to coaching as early as next season.
It remains to be seen where Guardiola’s next job will be, but after the match he reiterated his desire to take a break from the pressure of elite management.
“I’m tired – that’s why I’ll stop for a while now,” he said.
“But I am very satisfied with the 14 trophies, and how we won them.”
Guardiola succeeded Frank Rijkaard as Barca coach in 2008, after spending a successful season in charge of the club’s B team.