Puyol: Guardiola departure is a heavy blow

The Spanish defender was shocked to learn that the coach will leave the club in the summer and insisted there is no bad blood between the 41-year-old and Lionel Messi
Barcelona defender Carles Puyol has confessed to being heartbroken with Pep Guardiola's decision to step down as coach at the end of the season.

The 41-year-old announced on Friday that he will leave the Camp Nou club at the end of the campaign at a press conference, which was attended by several of his players.

He named the exhausting nature of the job as the reason to bring an end to a successful four-year reign, but Puyol admitted that the players were caught off-guard by the decision.

"It is a heavy blow that Guardiola leaves," he told reporters at a resulting press conference. "Inside the dressing room, we all wanted him to stay.

"He told us on Friday morning, right before the training session.

"We will forever be thankful to him. He has left a lot of things in football. He marked an era and that is very important.

"Life goes on and we will try to follow our path and do things as well as when he was here."

The Spanish defender then commented on soon-to-be coach Tito Vilanova, insisting that the assistant to Guardiola is the best possible choice.

"The fact that Tito will be the new coach is the best news we could get," Puyol added. "This is the continuation of a project.

"Tito knows the team better than anyone and the club's philosophy. He has worked with Pep for five years.

"He is the ideal person to carry on the project. It will be more or less the same."

Puyol went on to dismiss reports about a growing tension between Guardiola and Lionel Messi, which were motivated by the fact that the Argentine was not present at Friday's news conference.

"After the practice session, the team got together and we decided that only the four captains would go," he explained.

"Leo wanted to go, but when he saw that the four captains were going, he took a step back. He wanted to be at the press conference.

"But then more players decided to show up of their own free will. Messi has never had a falling out with Pep.

"The entire squad will be at his farewell. You can say a lot of things, but we are with Guardiola to the death."