Messi and Guardiola / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Barcelonistas gathered at the stadium on Saturday night to wish Guardiola a heartfelt farewell as the manager coached FC Barcelona for the last time at the Camp Nou. The tone for the night was set as the manager led his team out onto the pitch and was greeted by a massive banner, unfurled by Barça supporters, that read ‘We love you, Pep!’ The ensuing 90 minutes offered the perfect platform for both the players and the fans to show the manager the truth of that statement. Guardiola, visibly touched by the displays of affection from the stands, was also the recipient of an intimate gesture of gratitude and respect from the world’s best player.

Leo Messi made sure he added a personal touch to the Camp Nou's tribute to Guardiola. The Argentine, who at the start of the game against Espanyol had 46 La Liga goals, netted four times to bring his tally to a record-breaking 50 before the end of the match. The four-star performance was topped off when Messi ran to the sideline and embraced his manager as the Camp Nou roared in celebration of the Argentine’s fourth goal. The three-time Ballon d’Or winner talked about his goal celebration after the match on Tencent Weibo, the leading Chinese social network: “it was a game that was very emotional for me. I felt the need to hug Pep to thank him.”

Messi went on to tell his Chinese followers that “Pep will always have my respect, I will always cherish him [...] He’s been very important in my career. I’m also very thankful to the people that are happy with my goals.”

After the match, Sandro Rosell, FC Barcelona President, said that “it’s important our heroes can leave through the front door. We’ve matured as a Club and as supporters.” Hours after posting on Tencent, Messi noted, this time on Facebook, a statement that rings true for any Barça fan: “it's been a great pleasure to share so many good moments with Pep over these last few years!”

Barcelonistas, fans and players alike, gave Guardiola the sendoff he deserves.

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