Carles Puyol spoke at a press conference on Saturday which was, obviously, dominated by the news that Josep Guardiola is standing down as first team manager to be replaced by Tito Vilanova. He confirmed that the players “wanted Pep to continue” but on learning of his decision and the reasons behind it, he explained: “The fact that Tito will be the manger is the best news we could get. He’s the continuation of a project and has the support of all the players”.

The project goes forward

Puyol also expressed his agreement with the thinking behind the choice of Tito Vilanova: “He knows the team and our philosophy better than anybody. He knows a great deal about football and has worked hand in hand with Pep all this time. It’ll be more or less the same as it has been up to now. The philosophy and the idea will be the same. He’s the ideal person to take this project forward”.

As for the mood of the players now that they know Guardiola is stepping aside, Puyol spoke mainly of gratitude: “We’ll be eternally grateful to him. He has marked a ‘before and after’ in football, and that’s really important. He’s given us so much, more than we could have imagined. Things like always going out to win, having great respect for opponents…Now life goes on and we will try and follow the path he has marked out for us and to do as good a job as he has done”.

Puyol also revealed how the players had heard the news: “If you’d asked us before the Chelsea match, we’d have said he was going to continue. After having two days off and, given everything that has been coming out, we were expecting it yesterday. We players have tried in our day to day work and attitude to get him to continue. We’ve given our all. But when the pressure is like he’s explained, it’s difficult. It must be really hard to be a manager, and even more so the way he lives it. He thinks about football 24 hours a day”.

"Guardiola has left behind a legendary team"

Asked by reporters what he would most remember about Guardiola, Puyol didn’t hesitate a moment: “I’ll remember everything he’s given us. His way of understanding football. He’s left behind a legendary team that will be remembered for ever. I hope he gets the send-off he deserves, for everything he’s given us. The players are united and keen to take this project forward”.

Finally, turning to this Sunday’s match against Rayo, Puyol told reporters. “They will be motivated to win the match, the same as us. We’ll try and do a good job, get out there on the pitch the way we’ve always done and then we’ll see what happens”.

"Messi is very grateful to the boss"

Regarding Lionel Messi’s absence from the press conference in which Guardiola announced his departure, Puyol insisted: “I want to clear up what’s been said.  When training finished yesterday, we got together and said that the four captains would go.  Leo wanted to go but on seeing that the captains were going, he took a step back.  Then more players appeared by their own volition.  Leo is very grateful to the boss, just like all the squad, and if there’s a farewell do then we’ll all be there, because we’ll all 100% behind him”.

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