World football’s most coveted coach yesterday quit Barcelona and confirmed he will take a sabbatical before returning to the game.

THE Premier League’s biggest clubs will have to wait 12 months to land Pep Guardiola.

What is more, Guardiola insisted he never met Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich over the Blues job.

Spaniard Guardiola has been linked with a host of top jobs in England, including Chelsea, Manchester United and City, Arsenal, Liverpool and even the ENGLAND position.

But in an dramatic Press conference alongside Barca president Sandro Rosell and technical director Andoni Zubizarreta, Guardiola ruled out managing Chelsea or any other team next season as he takes a year off.

He said: “I feel drained and empty and I need to replenish my energy levels. Four years is an eternity as manager of Barca.

“Time wears you down and I’m worn down. Sooner or later I will come back to manage a club but I can’t replenish myself if I return to coach right now.

“I never met Roman Abramovich. It would be disrespectful to my club. I didn’t want my emotional ties with Barca to prevent me from being clear in my decisions.

“This is the best place possible for me but I am doing what is my duty and responsibility.

“If I carried on I could have compromised the players as much as myself. I respect them far too much to stagger on just for being here.”

Guardiola, 41, has won 13 trophies in four years as Barcelona boss — playing a style of football that many consider to be the best seen in the modern era.

Twice in his reign he won the Champions League and both times they beat Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the final — in Rome in 2009 and last year at Wembley.

Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta have been the leaders of this super-team dubbed by many as ‘the best club team of all time’.

But it was former player Guardiola who rightly got the global acclaim for being able to manage a dressing-room full of superstars.

Keeping the delicate balance as well as walking the tightrope in the corridors of power at the Nou Camp has exhausted the former skipper.

He added: “I think sincerely that the next person will bring things that I can’t.

“The demands are very high, as is the pressure, and the manager must be strong and have the necessary energy to pass on to the players and inspire them.

“I need to recover this strength and you do that by resting.”

Guardiola’s announcement came after Barcelona lost at home to Real Madrid last Saturday and crashed out of the Champions League against Chelsea in a dramatic semi-final in the Nou Camp on Tuesday.

It was Barcelona’s first loss to Real in La Liga in Guardiola’s four years in charge.

It means Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid are odds-on to win the title as they are seven points clear with four to play.

Guardiola will be replaced at the end of the season by Tito Vilanova — the man Mourinho infamously poked in the eye at the start of the season when Barcelona beat Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

Despite constant sniping from Mourinho, what was always striking was the remarkable poise shown by Guardiola.

Last week, he congratulated Madrid without quibble as they celebrated in the Nou Camp.

It came in stark contrast to Mourinho’s derogatory rants after every loss to Barca.

There were many of those in just two seasons where the Real boss blamed the referees and UEFA conspiracies.

Guardiola added: “That passion so necessary to continue, so the players listen to you, disappears after four years.

“You can only recover that by resting. It would have been a bad idea to continue.

“Perhaps we wouldn’t have gone wrong but I had the perception it would. I could not run the risk that it would go wrong.

“It is my time to go. I had the great privilege to manage these players from the first to the last.

“They allowed me to enjoy my position and job.

“And I want to thank them because there have been millions of wonderful combination plays and fantasy football games that they made reality.

“There is no more valiant prize than this, which is what I am taking with me.

“I am leaving with the feeling of having fulfilled my duty and very proud to have been here.

“I’ve not betrayed anyone or anything of what my predecessors taught me. And I am leaving at peace with myself.”

President Rosell summed up the feelings of Barca fans.

He said: “Thank you Pep, for the happiness you’ve given us and everything you’ve brought to your Barcelona. For perfecting a football model that will never again be questioned.

“For representing the institution in a model manner, putting our values that define us as a club as your emblem. For all the support, affection and love.

“The gratitude of Barcelona fans will be eternal for the best manager in the history of our club.”

Those words will also resonate with countless millions of neutrals around the world who loved watching Pep’s Barca strut their stuff.

United, City Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea may well be scrambling to snap up Pep come the end of next season.

And who can blame them?