Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would have loved to see Pep Guardiola stay on at Barcelona to try to recapture their success.
Guardiola announced he would not be renewing his contract at the Catalonian club and will take a break from football, with his assistant Tito Vilanova swiftly drafted in as his replacement.
Wenger’s Arsenal were twice knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona in recent seasons, and the Frenchman believes the 41-year-old could have again guided the team back to former glories, having seen Real Madrid overtake them in the race for the Spanish title.
Speaking on Friday morning before Guardiola’s official announcement, the Gunners boss said: “It comes as a surprise to me because first of all when you make a decision after a big disappointment like he has had in the past week, it may not be the right moment to make this decision.
“The philosophy of Barcelona has to be bigger than winning or losing a championship.
“Guardiola is one of the representatives of this philosophy and made this philosophy triumph so I would have loved him, even going through a disappointing year, to stay and come back and insist with his philosophy. That would be interesting.”
The manner of the defeat to Real Madrid last weekend – a loss which effectively saw them relinquish their Primera Division title to Jose Mourinho’s men – and the midweek exit to Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals appear to have prompted Guardiola to walk away after four trophy-laden years.
Wenger can empathise with the weight of expectation.
He said: “I can understand there are not many managers who work throughout a career without a breather. Maybe he has not shown the stress. Maybe it’s taken more than he has shown. You never know from the outside how deeply a man suffers from the inside.
“I have heard he has come out and wants to have a break to reflect on the situation, which you can understand after a certain time. I decided the other way to never come out of a job, because it becomes second nature to cope with it. It becomes your life, but some people need to move out at some stage.”
West Brom boss Roy Hodgson understood Guardiola’s decision and felt it was an “intelligent” move for the 41-year-old.
Hodgson said: “I think I understand. He is a young coach. He took over at Barcelona – never an easy job to start your coaching career with.
“He has done it fantastically well for four years and won virtually everything there is to win.
“He feels the need for a sabbatical and I can fully understand that and it is an intelligent thing to do.
“If you are at Barcelona, you are always looking to reach Champions League finals. That is highly pressurised.
“I’m sure after a short break he will be keen to get back into football again and come back with that renewed energy and enthusiasm which we all do when we’ve had a chance to rest up for a while.
“Where his next move may be, I don’t have any opinions on that other than to say I’m sure he will be an interesting target for lots of clubs given his record at Barcelona is good.”