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Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino stepping down after losing Spanish league title

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BARCELONA, Spain - Coach Gerardo Martino said he was leaving Barcelona after a disappointing first season that ended with his team losing its Spanish league title on the season's final day.

The Argentine manager said he had reached "an agreement to cease being the coach" after Barcelona was held to 1-1 by new champion Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Martino was hired last summer and tasked with continuing Barcelona's winning era started by predecessor Pep Guardiola in 2008, but Barcelona finished the season without a major trophy for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Former Barcelona player Luis Enrique is expected to replace Martino, who left with one year left on his contract.

"I am deeply sorry that I couldn't help my players reach the club's goals that it has been reaching year after year," said Martino, who refused to take questions from the press after the match.

"I am sure (my players) will have more successes (in the future). I don't have anything else to say except to thank them. We admired these players from afar, we admired them from up close, and I am sure I will continue admiring them because they will get back to winning again."

Martino alluded for weeks to a possible exit, saying his future had already been decided regardless of how the league ended after Barcelona's exit from the Champions League to Atletico, and loss in the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid.

On Saturday, he said the decision was taken "independently of the game" that limited him to a Spanish Supercup as his only trophy in one season in charge of the Catalan club.

"We thank 'Tata' because he took over during a difficult season," Barcelona sports director Andoni Zubizarreta said. "Even so, we made the final of the Copa del Rey and were within five minutes of winning the league title."

Speculation has grown that Enrique will be named to take Martino's place after he stepped down as Celta Vigo coach following a meeting with Barcelona last week.

Barcelona needed to win the match at Camp Nou to win the league, but Diego Simeone's Atletico emerged undefeated from its sixth meeting with Barcelona this season.

Martino's goodbye came after goalkeeper Victor Valdes and captain Carles Puyol said their farewells this week. Other players will likely join them with the club set to overhaul its squad.

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