MADRID (AP) — Barcelona will remain Real Madrid's main rival next season even without coach Pep Guardiola, said Jose Mourinho, who bid farewell to his most difficult rival with a note of affection on Tuesday.
Current assistant coach Tito Vilanova is set to replace Guardiola from next season but Mourinho, speaking to the media ahead of a Spanish league match for the first time since early April, said that appointment "changes nothing."
Since Mourinho's arrival at Madrid in 2010, the matches between the two Spanish giants have veered into petulance with Mourinho poking Vilanova in the eye in a game last year that descended into a brawl.
"The Guardiola case is a personal decision, he knows why (he's leaving)," Mourinho said. "What's most important is that he is happy with his decision. I hope he enjoys it because that's what matters most in life. If for him to be happy he has to leave football, then that's how it has to be. I send him a hug."
Madrid will seal its first Spanish league title since Guardiola's arrival — and a record 32nd — with a victory at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday. That would make Mourinho the first coach to win titles in Spain, England, Italy and Portugal.