Liga - Barca talk continuity as Guardiola era ends
Tito Vilanova's step up from assistant to Barcelona coach for next season is a sign of continuity rather than the end of an era, the outgoing Pep Guardiola said after Friday's 3-0 Copa del Rey final triumph.
Guardiola signed off the same way that he started at Barcelona with a Cup final win over Athletic Bilbao, securing his 14th trophy from the 19 competitions he has competed in since taking charge in 2008.
"The important thing is that, with the concept we have, it will continue," Guardiola told his last post-match news conference at the Calderon in Madrid.
"These players will be just as competitive. Everything will continue the same. The way we play didn't start and doesn't finish with me.
"I leave with my head held high and with the club in a position so that everything will carry on functioning the way it has been doing."
Guardiola has said he is taking time out to rest but reports in England and Italy have speculated that European champions Chelsea and Inter Milan are keen to lure him back to football as soon as possible.
He embraced his close friend Vilanova on the touchline at the final whistle after Barca wrapped up a comprehensive victory to ease some of pain after losing their La Liga and Champions League titles.
Pedro scored twice and Lionel Messi bagged the other in a whirlwind opening half hour that swept aside Bilbao, who also lost the Europa League final to Atletico Madrid by the same scoreline two weeks ago.
Barca fans chanted Guardiola's name in the second half and club president Sandro Rosell said it was a fitting send off for the 41-year-old.
"He has left a legacy that Tito will continue," Rosell told Barca's television channel.
"We don't forget Tito has also been a part of all this. He will do just as well. The players are united and they all back him. I don't see any end of an era. Those who see it that way will be proved wrong."
"I keep a piece of the net from all the goals where we have won titles. I have a small museum at home," he told reporters.
"We have had a good year with four titles," he added, referring to the European and Spanish Super Cups, the Club World Cup and the Copa del Rey.
"A cycle ends but a new door opens and we are very enthusiastic."
Vilanova's first official game as Barca coach will be against arch-rivals and La Liga champions Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in August, the traditional curtain-raiser to the new season.
He is suspended for the first leg, as is his opposite number Jose Mourinho, after both were punished following a melee among the squads at the end of last season's edition.
Mourinho received a two-match Super Cup ban for jabbing his finger into Vilanova's eye while the Barca man got a one-game ban for responding with a cuff to the back of Mourinho's head.