30 May 2011

Barca coach unsure of future

5:59 am on 30 May 2011

After Barcelona's dazzling Champions League triumph over Manchester United, manager Pep Guardiola should be contemplating how to extend his club's European football hegemony, yet his future remains uncertain.

The 40-year-old has only been in charge for three seasons but such is the mental strain of being at the helm of an institution that is so much more than a football club, that he is contemplating walking away after one more year at the helm.

Indeed, after Sunday's 3-1 Wembley defeat it was United's evergreen 69-year-old year old boss Alex Ferguson, in charge for 25 years, who was already planning how to build a team to challenge the Spaniards for top European billing.

Guardiola is steeped in Barcelona history and never misses an opportunity to remind people that he is a "mere cog in the machine".

He was a player in the team that won their first European Cup at the old Wembley in 1992 and has now guided them to their third and fourth triumphs, both coming with final victories over United.

It might seem extraordinary that such a young, fresh and wildly successful manager could consider walking away from one of the greatest teams ever to play the game, when the prospect of hauling the club closer to Real Madrid's daunting tally of nine European Cups is right there in front of him.

Yet Guardiola has often spoken of the emotional toll taken on the man tasked with leading a team who symbolise the whole notion of a separate Catalan nation.