x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pep Guardiola leaves Barcelona on a high after winning the Copa del Rey

Departing coach says this was his best season at the Catalan giants, despite failure in the league and Champions League.

Barcelona's Pedro Rodriguez, center, holds up the trophy to celebrate the team's victory in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on Friday night. Andres Kudacki / AP Photo
Barcelona's Pedro Rodriguez, center, holds up the trophy to celebrate the team's victory in the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on Friday night. Andres Kudacki / AP Photo

Pep Guardiola has hailed this season as his best as Barcelona manager despite missing out on both the Primera Liga title and the Champions League.

Barca secured their fourth trophy of the campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final last night to take Guardiola's total trophy haul in four years in charge to 14 and he believes the result put a deserved shine on the season as a whole.

The Catalans raced into a three goal lead before the half hour mark as Lionel Messi scored his 73rd goal of the season in between two strikes from Pedro and, despite more resistance from Athletic in the second period, they cruised to their 26th Copa del Rey title.

Guardiola said: "We have had a good year and won four titles. The cup gives feeling to the other three, we played very well for 35 minutes and then Athletic put us under pressure.

"This has been the best year, the one in which we have made more steps tactically. In the first seasons it was all energy, artificial fires. I went over games from the first year and we committed more errors."

Guardiola was also full of praise for Athletic after a fine season in which they reached two cup finals and entertained throughout.

"The most amazing things I have seen this year have been from Athletic. I have been a fan of this club and this idea. They are never beaten.

"The people aren't stupid, they wouldn't acclaim any team that had lost in two finals. They have left us with something to learn from."

The 41 year old insisted that his only reason for leaving the club this summer was to take a break from the game and refused to be drawn on his future.

"The reason is tiredness. If it wasn't I would have liked to continue. We will see what happens in the future.

"To win 14 titles in four years is very difficult to achieve and we are proud of how we have done it. I have to thank the institution. I go with the sensation that I am leaving good things in this club."

Guardiola lauded the contribution of Messi to the success of his side over the past four seasons.

"He is more competitive than when he arrived and I have learned from him. Without him we would have won titles, but it would have been almost impossible to win 14 out of 19.

"I hope that I have helped in some way if that was possible. It has been a privilege to train the best player I have seen and will ever see."

Athletic manager Marcelo Bielsa accepted responsibility for the defeat and refused to say for certain whether he will remain in charge next season despite the fans chanting for him to do so after the final whistle.

"I thank them [the players] for their generosity and faith to the colours, but what I can't avoid is the regret, above all because I am the one responsible, to not have performed up to the standard that was expected.

"We will evaluate the future of the technical team with a meeting for both parties.

"I expect that in the course of the next week my future will be decided one way or another."