Guardiola's future in doubt after refusal to deny Cruyff's walkout claims
Pep Guardiola has plunged Barcelona into uncertainty ahead of tonight's Champions League final by refusing to dismiss Johan Cruyff's claims that he could walk away from the Nou Camp following the Wembley clash against Manchester United.
Guardiola, whose contract as coach expires in June 2012, is known to have strong admirers within the Chelsea hierarchy and -- despite Guus Hiddink emerging as Roman Abramovich's first choice to replace the sacked Carlo Ancelotti -- will command serious consideration at Stamford Bridge.
But with former Barcelona player and coach Cruyff yesterday voicing his concerns that Guardiola had been worn down by the psychological strain of managing the Catalan giants, the Guardiola (40) did little to allay those fears when speaking at his press conference at Wembley last night.
"Today is not the day to talk about that (his future)," Guardiola said. "We have worked an enormous amount of time to get here and overcome many difficulties.
"It is a privilege to be here, so let's not talk about anything else. Leaving? Let's leave that for another time."
Cruyff, who led Barcelona to the club's first European Cup against Sampdoria at Wembley in 1992, believes the mental pressures are taking their toll on Guardiola, however.
"Guardiola has put in a lot of hard work in the past few years and it would not surprise me if he decides to leave Barcelona after the Champions League final, regardless of the outcome of the match," said Cruyff.
"If he decides to leave, it would only be because it is very difficult to deal with the heavy pressure for such a long time. That is why I think this could be his last year, but he will not have any problems in finding a new team."
Guardiola, who is approaching his third anniversary as Barcelona coach next month, has been touted as a leading candidate to succeed Alex Ferguson as United manager when the 69-year-old finally chooses to retire.
And while Ferguson continues to show no sign of walking away, the long-term prospect of moving to United is understood to hold more appeal for Guardiola than a move to England this summer, with the former Spain midfielder adding fuel to the perception that he is considering a break from the game by talking of the difficulties of managing Barcelona.
"You have the psychological pressure if you are winning or losing," Guardiola said.
"But it all takes its toll some way or other." (© Daily Telegraph, London)