- Josep Guardiola will stand down as coach of Barcelona at the end of this season
- The 41-year-old said he is physically and emotionally drained after four years
- He had been the world's most successful coach during his four-year tenure
- He revealed he made the decision to stand down before the turn of the year
Josep Guardiola has confirmed he is to step down as Barcelona coach at the end of this season, saying four years in charge of one of the world's biggest clubs is an eternity.
The record-breaking coach cited tiredness as the major factor in his decision, saying he needed a prolonged break to rediscover his energy and enthusiasm for the game.
At an emotional press conference in Barcelona, attended by many of the team's star players, the club's president Sandro Rosell confirmed Guardiola's number two, Tito Villanova, is to take over next season.
"Four years on the Barcelona bench is an eternity, " Guardiola explained. "I want you to understand this is not a simple decision for me. I'm sorry deeply for the confusion in the last few weeks.
"At beginning of December I announced to the chairman that I was seeing the end of my era at Barcelona. He or I couldn't say that publicly.
"I had to announce this today because I didn't want to continue with the confusion. The reason is simple, four years is very tiring.
"I'm drained and I need to fill up. The demand has been very high and a manager must be strong. The new coach will give things I'm not able to anymore."
The 41-year-old's announcement comes at the end of a disappointing week for the Spanish club, whose European title defense came to a halt just days after a defeat by arch-rivals Real Madrid all but ended its three-season domestic reign.
Guardiola joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old and won six La Liga titles and one European Cup as a player with the club.
He presided over an unprecedented treble in his first season in charge, winning the Champions League, La Liga and the Spanish Cup, having been promoted from his role as coach of the Barcelona reserve side in May 2008.
He won the Champions League again last season and also a third successive Spanish title, followed by success at the Club World Cup for a second time in December 2011. He won a total of 13 trophies during his tenure.
However, he never signed a long term contact and revealed he had made the decision to quit before the turn of the year.
Barcelona's president Sandro Rosell called Guardiola the best coach in the history of the club, and said: "Thank you Pep for perfecting our football model, it can never be questioned again."
Under Guardiola, Barcelona acquired the reputation of being the most attractive team in the world to watch, spearheaded by the sublime goalscoring exploits of three-time world player of the year Lionel Messi.
The Argentina striker was not present at the press conference and later explained why on his page on the social networking site Facebook.
"I want to thank Pep with all my heart for everything he has given me in my professional career and personally," the 24-year-old wrote.
"Because of the emotions I feel I preferred not to be present at Pep's press conference and to stay away from the press because I know they will look for the pain on the players' faces. It is something I decided not to show."
Guardiola acknowledged the intense demands of coaching one of the world's most high profile clubs prompted him to relinquish the reins. Despite speculation linking him to other jobs, he confirmed he would be taking a break from the game.
"You can only recover by resting," he said. "It would have been a bad decision to continue. We have lived too many strong things together to run the risk that this goes wrong.
"I know this is the best possible place, but it is my time to go. I'm satisfied beyond the results in the way we've done it.
"I want to thank my players, who have been responsible for everything that has happened. It has been a pleasure to train them.
"It's been a million games I've imagined but they made it reality. Day by day for so many years they made it possible."
Guardiola said he recalled jumping up and down like a little boy when he was asked to take over as coach of Barcelona's 'B' team in 2007.
"I need to recover that feeling," he said. "Time has taken its toll. It's been three days of madness but it had to happen.
"I am proud of everyone I work with. This club is a powerful force -- it is unstoppable. The one that will replace me (Villanova) is very able to take this on."