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Chelsea must vie with Big Apple of Pep's eye

PEP GUARDIOLA'S reasons for making Roman Abramovich wait at least another six months could perhaps be explained by a comment he made earlier this year. Asked about his thoughts on returning to management, he replied: "You never know. It's just that New York is so nice."

He was responding to a question about the possibility of managing the Spanish national team, but the same rationale could apply to his decision to put off returning to management at Chelsea - or anywhere else - until next summer.

In the Big Apple, Guardiola enjoys a life of anonymity that must provide a welcome relief to the intense scrutiny he faced in Spain and would endure in London.

The former Barcelona coach lives in a luxurious €24,000-a-month apartment overlooking Central Park in the city's Upper West Side.

The building is home to other celebrities such as David Duchovny, the X-Files actor. Barbara Streisand used to live there and, according to the US property news website The Real Deal, Mariah Carey was rejected by the co-operative board when she attempted to buy a flat there.

Privacy

So keen was Guardiola to land a spot at the sought-after address he reportedly offered €2,300-a-month more than the asking price.

Yesterday, Guardiola arrived at his apartment alone shortly after 3.30pm. Dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, jeans and trainers, he dashed from a car into the building.

The building's doorman said he was under strict instructions to protect the privacy of the resident he called 'Mr Gardomi'. "I'm sorry," the doorman said. "He has informed us only to advise him of visitors he is expecting in advance."

Guardiola shares the four-bedroom apartment, which has a private elevator and access to a gym, with his wife Cristina, their son and two daughters. His children are enrolled at a nearby school and are learning English.

Guardiola, who plans to take a year out living in New York, spends his time simply "getting to know the city".

The area is almost completely residential and some distance from the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhattan. Yet he has been spotted walking with his family around SoHo, mingling unnoticed among tourists, and doing the school run.

While he appears to be taking a break from football, Guardiola has taken an interest in other sports while in the US.

He was spotted at the US Open tennis in New York and was inside the ropes at the recent Ryder Cup in Chicago after being invited as a guest by his countryman and Europe captain, Jose Maria Olazabal.

But in New York, a vast city with little interest in football, Guardiola can go about his days in complete anonymity. Such a quiet life is a priceless luxury for a man who faced unimaginable pressure during his time in charge of Barcelona.

So priceless, in fact, that even Abramovich's million's could not yet prise the Spaniard from his new American life. But when Rafa Benitez's period as interim manager at Chelsea comes to an end, it may finally be time for Guardiola to leave the city he has come to love.


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