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Barcelona's coach Pep Guardiola celebrates after his team scores a goal during their Champions League round of 16, 2nd leg football match FC Barcelona vs Arsenal on March 8, 2011 at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE
Barcelona's coach Pep Guardiola celebrates after his team scores a goal during their Champions League round of 16, 2nd leg football match FC Barcelona vs Arsenal on March 8, 2011 at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE
FC Barcelona's coach Josep Guardiola, right, talks with Barcelona's technical secretary Txiki Beguiristain from the stand before a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
FC Barcelona's coach Josep Guardiola, right, talks with Barcelona's technical secretary Txiki Beguiristain from the stand before a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, March 14, 2010. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Guardiola will be spoilt for choice in hunt for new managerial position

The former Barcelona coach will be inundated with lucrative offers when he decides to return from self-imposed exile.

From his rented family apartment overlooking Central Park on Manhattan's upper west side, Pep Guardiola has watched the seasons turn.

The stifling heat of the New York summer gave way to a changing palette of the autumn foliage: reds, oranges, browns and golds. The Catalan has been linked with coaching clubs who play in almost as many colours.

Helped by superstorm Sandy, the leaves will be gone in a few weeks. When they return in spring, Guardiola will be aware that decision time is approaching.

For the world's most successful coach of recent times, thanks to his four years in charge at Barcelona, there is no shortage of suitors, although few will show their intentions publicly.

Guardiola is deeply respected within football, but the Barca job was taking a strain and speeded up the ageing process at a club where the managerial fuse burns down quickly.

Guardiola went from heartthrob to hairless before he decided he wanted to take some time out with his family. It went against convention, but Guardiola did not want to burn out and miss his three children growing up.

So he decided to spend a year in Manhattan with his family, a year to soak up the culture, to be relatively anonymous, to attend sporting events such as golf's Ryder Cup where he walked the fairways with his family and smiled when fans of English clubs suggested he should take charge of their team.

He watched the US Open too where he met Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager.

Guardiola is reading widely and improving his English, probably ahead of an appointment at an English club.

"I respect him for the decision he's taken," said the former United captain Roy Keane, who also turned to management and now, as a television pundit, spends time studying the Barcelona model, including watching training sessions.

"He was successful and decided to take some time out with the family to enjoy life. He's not going to struggle getting back into football, is he?"

The decision was Guardiola's and he was sufficiently confident in his own abilities to spurn Chelsea, who were pondering over whether to keep Roberto di Matteo in charge at the end of May, despite him lifting the European Cup.

Many in football know they only get one chance to board a train before it leaves, but Guardiola is the man with the first class open ticket who can take his pick.

He will make the right choice, the right challenge. He knows that some think he had it easy at Camp Nou, that despite winning 14 trophies including two European Cups, two world club titles and three league titles, not everyone was convinced.

He had, after all, inherited a team of world-class stars and a player who was fast becoming the best in the world.

Detractors ignore the glowing references from his players and others who worked with him closely who talked of his attention to detail, his research, knowledge garnered from years as a top level player, intelligence, his feeling for Barca and his drive to win.

That self-imposed intensity and pressure, the increasingly fractured relationship with a couple of pumped up egos got to him in the end, though, and he had to walk away.

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Where could Guardiola end up next?  Read Andy Mitten's analysis here

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He had done four years, far more than most in Spain, but one thing he likes about English football is the longevity afforded to successful managers and the chance to build a legacy.

If he gets that opportunity, it will be frowned upon if he takes a year out after four years.

He would love the idea of replacing Ferguson and if the Scot, who turns 71 next month, was to recommend a replacement tomorrow it would be the Catalan, 42.

United, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the three biggest football clubs in the world. Guardiola has triumphed at one, joining another is out of the question and that leaves United.

Ferguson is unlikely to leave so soon, so cast your eyes three miles across Manchester towards Manchester City. Actually, the bosses of the two Manchester clubs work less than a half a mile apart on a day-to-day basis, with both training grounds located in Carrington on the city's western fringe.

There is not a spot of land on earth blessed with so much football talent each working day.

City's recently appointed chief executive Ferran Soriano, who was at Barcelona, knows and likes Guardiola.

City's newly hired sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, was also at Barcelona where he worked closely with Guardiola as a player and then as the sporting director, with great success.

It does not take Einstein to join the dots, dots which become clearer each time City fail in Europe.

All three are intelligent, successful, at ease in many different football languages.

They trust each other, they played a part in producing arguably the greatest team the world has ever seen. Could that be repeated on the blue side of Manchester?

Barca fans do not expect Guardiola to return, but they do not want him to return armed with the riches from another club which Barca cannot compete with.

They do not want to lose Sergio Busquets, 24, who is not paid like Barca's bigger names, is young enough to be the future of another club and good enough to build a team around. They do not want to lose Lionel Messi, naturally.

Guardiola is holding all the aces.

Advised by his agent, his wife and his brother, he will decide what appeals. But first, he will experience the snows of winter as he enjoys his season out in the States.

 

THE TROPHIES: GUARDIOLA'S TRACK RECORD

Primera Liga: 2009,2010, 2011
Copa del Rey: 2009, 2012
Spanish Supercopa: 2009, 2010, 2011
Champions League: 2009, 2011
Uefa Super Cup: 2009, 2011
Fifa Club World Cup: 2009, 2011

 

sports@thenational.ae

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