Guardiola future clouded by uncertainty

MADRID - Barcelona have won all six competitions they have contested since Pep Guardiola took charge 18 months ago but the 38-year-old coach has yet to reveal whether he will extend his contract beyond this season.

Guardiola has given little away about his plans, leaving it to the Spanish media to speculate that he may be waiting to see who will succeed club president Joan Laporta after next year's elections or that he is exhausted and plans to take a break.

"Pep is a very thoughtful person and he knows what he means to the club," Laporta, who will step down at the end of June 2010, was quoted as saying in La Vanguardia and other Spanish newspapers on Monday.

"He wants to carry on but there are a number of things he wants to think about," he added. "I am optimistic but it's not something that you should decide in the short term."

Barca's 2-1 comeback win over Estudiantes in the final of the Club World Cup on Saturday completed a fabulously successful period for the modest and retiring Guardiola, who joined the club as a teenager before becoming an integral part of Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" in the 1990s.

Since taking over from Dutchman Frank Rijkaard in June 2008, his side have won the Spanish league and Cup, the European Champions League, the Spanish and European Super Cups and the Club World Cup.

La Razon daily wrote on Monday that Guardiola, who broke down in tears at the end of Saturday's match, was "exhausted" and was thinking of stepping aside at the end of the season when his contract expires.

"The coach knows that there is no better time to rest than when you are at the summit," the newspaper wrote.

"It's been many months of work, many hours invested and a lot of lost hair.

"It has all borne fruit but maybe the time has come to say enough. Pep knows that in this way the doors at Barca will always be open to him if he wants to return."


La Vanguardia said the uncertainty about Guardiola's future was worrying the club's board but that they were also reluctant to pressure him into making a decision.

"They would like a response as soon as possible so that the situation does not become a weapon in the imminent presidential election," the newspaper wrote.

One of Guardiola's obvious strengths has been his ability to coax the best out of players like Lionel Messi and the Argentina forward was full of praise for his boss in an interview in El Periodico on Monday.

"The coach has been decisive," Messi, 22, said.

"He understood me as a footballer and he understood me as a person and there's nothing better than that for a player.

"He is key to everything we have experienced and everything we have won."

Barca are playing a friendly in Kuwait later on Monday and then Guardiola has until January 2 before the club's next match to mull over his future.

The players, the club faithful and many more impartial fans of the game will be hoping he decides to stay