Madrid: Tito Vilanova is the perfect choice to replace Pep Guardiola as Barcelona coach, said talismanic defender Carles Puyol on Saturday.
Vilanova, 42, was named as Guardiola's replacement after the former Spain midfielder announced on Friday he would be stepping down at the end of the season after bringing them three league titles and two Champions League trophies during his four-year tenure.
Vilanova - who as a player only briefly played top flight football, with Celta Vigo - was Guardiola's assistant during the club's remarkable spell. For Puyol, that makes Vilanova the perfect man to continue the 'Barcelona project'.
"Tito knows the team like nobody else, he knows its philosophy through and through," said Puyol.
"He is the ideal man to continue the project.
"The departure of Guardiola is a big blow, but the fact that Tito has succeeed him softens it somewhat."
Puyol, who has been the rock of the Barcelona defence during their successful run under Guardiola, paid a hefty tribute to the soon to be former coach.
"I would like to thank Pep for everything he has given us, he leaves us a lot in terms of football, a manner of understanding, of respecting ones opponent.
"He laid down a before and an after in football. Now life goes on.
"We noticed nothing different (about his behaviour prior to his resignation), he continued to work with the same attitude and the same hunger.
"If someone had asked me a week ago I would have bet he would stay."
Puyol, 34, also denied that three-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi had snubbed Guardiola by not attending the press conference where he announced he would be stepping down.
"Messi did not have a row with the coach, quite the opposite," said Puyol.
"It was the captains in the changing room who attended the press conference and Leo preferred to sit it out."