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Barcelona vs Bilbao Copa del Rey final: A tribute to Pep Guardiola – Career recap

May 25, 2012 By Angela Asante
Barcelona’s players have promised to put on a show in honour of departing manager Pep Guardiola. The 2012 Copa del Rey final represents Pep’s last match in charge of the Catalans.

Barcelona's players want to give Pep Guardiola a glorious farewell with victory over Athletic Bilbao in the 2012 Copa del Rey final.“If there is something extra about this [Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona Copa del Rey] final, it is the possibility of winning the title for our coach [Pep Guardiola], the possibility of him winning yet another title and leaving with his head held high.”

Cesc Fabregas was in a confident mood while declaring this statement at a press conference in mid-May. Barcelona have won several titles during the last four years in an unprecedented manner. If this season is considered as a disappointing one it is purely because the judgement of the public is based on comparisons with the Blaugrana’s achievements between the 2008/09 and 2010/2011 seasons.


Barcelona crumbled during the most important week of the 2011/12 campaign with defeats to Real Madrid at the Camp Nou in La Liga and Chelsea in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Coincidentally, Lionel Messi did not find the net during this crucial period. Should the reigning La Liga Player of the Year be blamed for being helpless when it mattered most?

In a space of eight days, Lionel Messi and the entire team of Barcelona saw the UEFA Champions League and La Liga titles slip away from their reach. However, in the 2011/12 Copa del Rey final, they could all find comfort and redemption.

Lionel Messi, who is on 72 goals and 28 assists, will lead the Catalans’ attack in his 60th game of the season. The Argentine talisman triggered emotions a few weeks ago when he hit Espanyol with 4 goals at the Camp Nou.

Could there have been a better way for Lionel Messi to pay homage to Pep Guardiola in the manager’s last game on home soil? The occasion will forever be remembered as a symbol of respect between a player and a coach in the history of the club.Lionel Messi scored 4 goals in Pep Guardiola's last match on home soil in La Liga. Messi is poised to put up a great performance against Athletic Bilbao in the 2012 Copa del Rey final.

Athletic Bilbao vs Barcelona will offer Lionel Messi a final opportunity to thank the man under whom he has abundantly flourished. With all due respect to Bilbao, it seems normal to expect a goal-fury from La Pulga; Messi hardly flops in big matches and the Copa del Rey final is a perfect moment to make up for the blunders in the league and Europe.

If there is more to Barcelona than Lionel Messi, Marcelo Bielsa and his men could be in serious trouble come May 25. In fact, Barcelona are normally a very difficult team to break; how much more at a time where they have vowed to pour their heart out for Pep Guardiola?

“I’m sure they [Athletic Bilbao] are not any more motivated than we are. Our hunger for victory and our excitement hasn’t run out,” Cesc Fabregas told the press this week.

“[Guardiola's departure] is difficult to define, as we do not want to see him leave,” goalkeeper Pinto also stated according to Barca TV. “His last game is going to be a little sad, so we'll try to win so that sadness becomes joy and he can have a happy farewell.”

Cesc Fabregas is certain that Barcelona are destined to win the 2011/12 Copa del Rey trophy. In the build-up to the 2011/12 Copa del Rey final against Bilbao, he told reporters:

“[Pep Guardiola will win his 14th title] because he is the best coach this club have ever had, without a doubt. It is not something we have spoken about as a group but we all know we want to dedicate it to him.”

The Spaniard believes that the players’ faith in Pep Guardiola has created a bond of unity too hard to break. Under the former Barca skipper, the current Blaugrana team has learned and grown enough to offer the coach a glorious ending.

“We won our first final under Guardiola against Athletic,” Busquets recalled during a press conference on May 15.

“He [the coach] will leave with this exact same match, collecting many titles and installing a new philosophy. This has been one of the best periods in the history of the club and the stint of a very special coach is coming to an end. He is the best there is.”

Pep Guardiola is regarded as the best coach ever in club football.Pep Guardiola’s club football career in numbers

• Born on January 18, 1971

• Position: Defensive midfielder

• Had a youth career at Barcelona between the ages of 12 and 19

• Played in Barcelona B between 1990 and 1992 and won the 1990/91 Segunda Division B title

• Had an 11-year career in Barcelona’s senior team during which he won 6 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Rey trophies, 4 Supercopa de Espana medals, 1 European Cup, 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and 2 UEFA Super Cup

• Played in the Italian Serie A with Brescia and Roma between 2001 and 2003

• Went to Al-Ahli in the Qatar Stars League between 2003 and 2005

• Finished his playing career in Mexico’s Primera Division with Dorados de Sinaloa during the 2005/06 season

• Became Barcelona B coach in 2007 and won the 2007/08 Tercera Division

• Became Barcelona coach in 2008 and won La Liga in his first 3 years; other achievements include 3 Supercopa de Espana titles, 2 UEFA Champions League triumphs, 2 UEFA Super Cups, 2 FIFA Club World Cup and the 2008/09 Copa del Rey trophy

• Won the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or Best Coach, the 2009, 2010 and 2011 La Liga Coach of the Year as well as the Catalan of the Year Award among a total of 19 individual awards

• Will play his last match as Barcelona coach on May 25, 2012 in the 2011/12 Copa del Rey final against Athletic BilbaoPep Guardiola will wave goodbye to Barcelona fans on May 25 after the 2012 Copa del Rey final.

Pep Guardiola’s coaching statistics

• Managed 152 La Liga matches, won 116, drew 25, lost 11

• Managed 30 cup matches, won 21, drew 6, lost 3

• Managed 50 European matches, won 30, drew 15, lost 5

• Managed a total of 246 matches, won 178, drew 47, lost 21

• Won 72.65 per cent of his matches, seeing 635 goals scored and 181 goals allowed

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