Leaving Barcelona the right decision for Guardiola

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Pep Guardiola is a man with a reputation untainted but the Barcelona is, for the first time, seeing his star damaged as the Catalan giants continue to falter in La Liga.

Barca's surprising defeat to Osasuna on Saturday evening provided Real Madrid with the opportunity to move ten points clear at the top of the table, should they beat Levante a day later.

Despite falling a goal behind at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real did just that - triumphing 4-2 to edge closer to a first title since Bernd Schuster led them to glory in 2008.

Guardiola was not even at the helm at the Nou Camp when Real last won the league, and his appointment some months later heralded an unprecedented era of success for Barcelona.

But a hat-trick of titles and two Champions League wins does not make a manager immune to criticism when things begin to unravel - something Guardiola is starting to experience.

The 41-year-old endured the ire of the Spanish press at the weekend after a tactical gamble spectacularly backfired as Osasuna boosted their chances of winning a spot in the Europa League next season.

Barca fans, though, took to blaming the referee following the 3-2 defeat in Pamplona but would have been best served directing their dismay at the miserable failure of an experimental midfield.

With an encounter against Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday in mind, Guardiola took to leaving Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas on the Barca bench.

Thiago, Javier Mascherano and Sergi Roberto were required to feature in their stead but failed to deliver and, perhaps more tellingly, Guardiola resisted the temptation to introduce Xavi, Iniesta or Fabregas, despite trailing 2-0 at half-time.

Guardiola instead looked to Isaac Cuenca and Tello in the hope of finding a way back into the game, but would have been better served sending on Xavi and Iniesta in a bid to restore parity.

Saturday may well be seen as the night Barca handed Real the title, but could also prove to be pivotal when Guardiola comes to making a decision on his managerial future.

The former Barcelona midfielder is out of contract at the end of the season, and has yet to give any clear indication that he will commit to the club further than the terms of his current deal.

But, although Guardiola is reported to have an uneasy relationship with club president Sandro Rossell, the latter is confident his manager will extend his stay at the Nou Camp.

"We will try to do everything necessary to convince Guardiola to stay of course, but it's his decision," Rossell said last week, according to The Sun.

"I hope he signs a new deal as he has done year in year out and he continues to be a part of this club in the seasons to come. It's what all our fans and members want."

However, despite the unprecedented success during his reign, Guardiola has often appeared to be a reluctant manager; something clear in his insistence of only signing one-year contracts.

It has been reported that he would even consider taking a sabbatical in order to spend more time with his young family, having entered into coaching almost immediately after ending his playing career.

With Madrid seemingly destined to win the Primera Division this season and Guardiola seeing his tactics questioned, perhaps he would be best served in walking away from the job come May.

It is a decision he would certainly not take lightly but, having achieved almost everything possible at Barcelona, one that will allow him to enhance his reputation elsewhere.

Guardiola was a man born to manage Barcelona, but his best years could yet be away from the Nou Camp.

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