Pep Guardiola has revealed he decided to leave Barcelona in 2012 because he felt he could no longer reach his players, telling the Audi Annual Report his glittering reign had come to feel like “a curse.”
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Guardiola, now with Bayern Munich, succeeded Frank Rijkaard as Barca coach in 2008 after an impressive spell in charge of the club’s B team and, in a remarkable four-year spell, won 14 trophies including two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles.
However, throughout his tenure he had always refused to commit to the club long-term and, in April 2012, he announced that he would be leaving at the end of the season, telling a news conference: “I have nothing left and need to recharge my batteries.”
The announcement had followed a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League semifinals, when the Blues came back from 2-0 down in the second leg at the Camp Nou to claim a 2-2 draw despite being down to 10 men after John Terry’s dismissal.
Guardiola said that match, which had hinged on a Ramires goal on 45 minutes and a Lionel Messi penalty miss after the break, had convinced him he could no longer continue at the club with which he had made his name.
“That was a moment of great sadness -- as if suddenly someone had switched the floodlights off,” he told the Audi Annual Report in one of his rare interviews. “We were better than our opponents but in the second leg conceded an unnecessary goal and the next thing we knew we were out of the competition.
“That was a very hard defeat for me. I had the feeling that I was no longer able to reach my team, and if you can no longer reach your players then it is time to move on.”
Guardiola, who was a player in Johan Cruyff’s legendary 1992 European Cup-winning side, said his unprecedented success on the Barca bench ultimately proved his undoing.
“We were incredibly successful -- 14 titles within four years meant the best era in the club’s history -- but such things can also be a curse,” he said. “I found it increasingly difficult to motivate my team.”
The former Spain international ultimately spent a year away from coaching as he recuperated in New York, during which time he was heavily linked with jobs in the Premier League -- notably Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United -- and AC Milan in Serie A.
However, in January 2013 it was confirmed that he would replace Jupp Heynckes as Bayern coach at the end of the season, and he revealed he had first made contact with the German club’s hierarchy during a preseason tournament in 2011.
He said: “Over an espresso I discussed my career plans with [chief executive] Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and [president] Uli Hoeness. Bayern’s current success was not foreseeable then.”
The news of his appointment was first reported by Sky Italia, and Guardiola believes he knows the source of the channel’s information.
“It appears that Silvio Berlusconi, who was president of AC Milan and the Italian Prime Minister at the same time, talked -- maybe because I did not sign for his club,” he said.