|Guardiola is being linked to Chelsea although has expressed desire to take a break from football [GALLO/GETTY]|
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, architect of one the greatest eras in the club’s history, is all but sure to announce his departure on Friday.
The 41-year-old has decided not to renew his rolling one-year contract and will stand down at the end of the season.
“Pep is going” cried the front-page headline of Barcelona-based daily Sport.
“Where will you be better off than in Barca?” the paper pleaded beneath a photograph of the 41-year-old Guardiola, head down and hands pressed together in deep reflection.
Fellow Catalan sports daily Mundo Deportivo hedged its bets with a front page that can be turned upside down to read either “Pep is going” or “Pep is not going”.
“Turn the front page around depending on what Guardiola says today,” the paper advised its readers.
Inside, however the paper was more pessimistic. “He has practically decided to leave Barca: today he will tell the management and the team,” Mundo Deportivo said.
“Nevertheless, up to this morning the door was still open for him to carry on.”
Guardiola, who has led the team to 13 titles during his four years in the job, has spoken with his players.
No-one was available to comment at the club.
Spain’s biggest selling sports daily Marca said Barcelona fans were on tenterhooks waiting for the news. “He is closer to leaving than staying,” the paper said.
Chelsea knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League this week and the Catalans’ archrivals Real Madrid beat them in a pivotal league clash at the Camp Nou last weekend.
Guardiola, who spent most of his playing career at Barcelona, coached Barcelona’s B team before taking control of the first-team squad in June 2008 from Dutchman Frank Rijkaard.
Earlier this week the daily Sport, without naming sources, said candidates to replace him included France coach Laurent Blanc, Olympiakos coach Ernesto Valverde and Athletic Bilbao’s Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa.