Bayern confirms Guardiola's departure at end of season

MUNICH: Coach Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and will be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, the German soccer powerhouse said Sunday.

Ancelotti, winner of three Champions League titles, signed a three-year deal, Bayern said.

"When I knew of the club's interest I didn't want to consider any other offer. I honestly wish Bayern Munich and my friend Pep Guardiola the best for the current season," Ancelotti said.

Despite the club's willingness for him to stay on, Guardiola decided to leave after three seasons in charge.

"We are very thankful to Pep Guardiola for everything he has given our club since 2013," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. "I am sure that Pep and our team will work even harder to achieve great sporting goals now that it's certain that Pep will leave Bayern."

In the same statement, Ancelotti said "it's an honor for me to be a part of this great club next season."

Rummenigge said Ancelotti was "a calm, balanced expert, who can deal with stars and can play a flexible game."

"What we sought, we found," Rummenigge said.

Ancelotti is a former Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Milan coach. He was former Bayern great Franz Beckenbauer's preferred candidate if Guardiola chose not to extend his contract. Ancelotti earned Real Madrid's 10th Champions League title, beating Bayern in the process.

Guardiola had long refused to commit his long-term future to Bayern.

In September, Guardiola abruptly ended a news conference when he was asked about reports linking him with the England national team. He consistently batted away questions over his future.

Guardiola, who took over Jupp Heynckes' treble-winning side in 2013, led Bayern to the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup that same year, a German league and cup double in 2014, and another Bundesliga title in 2015. The side set a host of records in that time.

However, Champions League success has so far eluded Guardiola at Bayern, where comprehensive semifinal defeats to Real Madrid and former club Barcelona represent his biggest disappointments at the club.

The 44-year-old Spaniard is bidding to lead Bayern to an unprecedented fourth successive Bundesliga title this season, with the Champions League and German Cup also marked as targets.

Bayern faces 2015 runner-up Juventus in the Champions League round of 16 on Feb. 23 and Mar. 16, while second-division Bochum awaits in the German Cup semifinals. Bayern is leading the Bundesliga by eight points at the halfway stage of the season.

Guardiola led Barcelona to Champions League triumphs in 2009 and 2011 during a four-season spell when the side claimed 14 titles and was widely considered the best in the world. He took a year's sabbatical before taking over in Munich, where he surprised journalists at his presentation by speaking well in German.

"In big clubs you always have huge pressure. I have that pressure here, but I'm confident in myself. I'll take this huge challenge on, no problem. That's why I'm a coach," Guardiola said at the time.

Guardiola, in his playing days an intelligent midfielder for Johan Cruyff's Barcelona, is known as a meticulous coach who plans in minute detail. He has moved players from their preferred position to see them excel elsewhere. Phillip Lahm, a defender, surprised many with his fine performances in midfield.

While preaching a possession-based game, patient build-up and a mean defense, Guardiola has altered Bayern's style this season to be more ruthless in attack. Only Borussia Dortmund had scored more goals after 17 league games.

Recurrent injury problems have led to issues between Guardiola and Bayern's medical staff. Kicker magazine reported Thursday that the coach blamed team doctor Volker Braun for the latest injury to afflict Franck Ribery.

The French winger, who recently returned from nine months out with an ankle injury, was ruled out for another eight weeks with a muscle tear sustained in the Champions League win at Dinamo Zagreb.

Braun reportedly denied responsibility for Ribery's injury and instead blamed Guardiola for rushing players back. Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Mario Goetze, Douglas Costa, Mehdi Benatia, Juan Bernat and Lahm were all out injured.

Guardiola fell out with Braun's predecessor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt in similar circumstances last April. Mueller-Wohlfahrt quit after 38 years at the club.

Guardiola was also reportedly unhappy that he did not have the final word on player transfers.