Guardiola bows out in style

Departing Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has applauded the support fans have given him in his four-year stay at the club.

Guardiola presided over his last match at the Camp Nou on Saturday night as his side sent him out in style, Lionel Messi leading the charge by scoring all the goals in a 4-0 rout of local rivals Espanyol.

It may have been too late for Barcelona to take the La Liga title from Real Madrid's grasp but that was the furthest thing from Guardiola's mind as he applauded Barcelona's fans after the match.

"Life has given me this gift. During the past four years I have been close to you (the fans) and these players. I'm privileged," Guardiola said.

"I hope you, the fans, have enjoyed some good times with the team. We have felt you close to us.

"You do not know how lucky I am. I will miss you a lot, but I am confident that you will be in good hands," he added, referring to his successor Tito Vilanova.

"I must take off my seatbelt now but you all must remain seated and you'll have a great time."

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has revealed Guardiola can return to Barcelona any time he chooses after seeing the affection fans had for the outgoing 41-year-old.

"No one left before the end of the game," Rosell said after the match.

"Camp Nou has said tonight loud and clear: 'We love you, Pep'.

"Pep can return when he wants."

Part of the reason none of the Barca fans left could be attributed to Messi.

Messi has now scored the most goals in a single European league season, breaking Dudu Georgescu's record of 47 goals for Dinamo Bucharest in the 1976-77 campaign when he put Barcelona 2-0 up.

Messi has 50 league goals for the season, having followed up his pair of strikes with a further two more on the night and also securing his eighth hat-trick of the campaign.

The record is just one of several in what has been a memorable season for the Argentine, beginning with his five goals against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League to earn him the distinction of being the competition's first player to score five in one match.

Messi also became Barca's all-time top goalscorer and the highest scorer in one Spanish season, while in the past week, his treble against Malaga meant he broke Gerd Muller's long-standing 67-goal haul in one campaign.

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