Pep Guardiola had something very clear when he changed Munich for Manchester in 2016: he wanted to be in the heart of the city. To be one more citizen, a citizen. Almost six years later, she can say that she has achieved it. Although it was not something simple. The inclement weather, the design of the city center and the gastronomic culture were hurdles that Santpedor had to jump over. Pol Ballús and Lu Martín, two of the people closest to Guardiola, explain in their ‘Manchester Notebook’ how, beyond contractual issues, he was the search for a home which complicated Pep’s landing.
During his time at Bayern, Guardiola lived in a large house. Very well located. Something impossible to find in the main arteries of his current city. “I have told him the truth, in Manchester there is not what he needs”confessed David Quintana, Txiki Begiristain’s right-hand man at that time, when asked about a meeting prior to closing the signing of Pep. “I have also told him that he will have it. We will make it up”, reassured him, as Ballús and Martín collect. He had it and still has it: CitySuites Aparthotel. A triple block of luxurious five-star aparthotels from where Guardiola, who lives on the top floor, sees Manchester Cathedral, just three minutes away on foot and with the River Irwell as a separation. They have also been there Gabriel Jesus, Sané or David Silva, but now there is only one Ilkay Gündogan left who lives door to door with his coach. “They never come this way, but they do come into the restaurant often,” says Andy, a barista at ‘Embankment Café’, which is part of the complex, pointing to the ground floor of the main building. “They eat there almost every day,” he adds.
Solved the real estate issue, touched climate and food. Since it is impossible to change it, he chose to protect his head from the cold. ‘Gill & Williams’, a tailor shop that recently closed and whose sign is still present if any curious person dares to visit it (88-92, Chapel St.), made him his first four style berets peaky blinder with which it was usual to see Guardiola walking around the city upon his arrival in 2016. Some ending in The Black Liona typical British pub at the end of the street. “I’ve seen him have a drink here two or three times”explains Luke, a waiter at the establishment. “He’s a very normal guy. Rich, but very normal”, he adds between laughs. Although these walks are, for the most part, in the morning, since he is usually up at half past seven. The objective is none other than to be soon in his office at the ‘City Football Academy’, from where he tries to even improve the nutrition of his footballers.
It has also tried to do it with its own, bringing a corner of the Mediterranean to the most cool from Manchester: TAST, Catalan cuisine. “Feel at home, away from home”explains Alberto Borge, General Manager of the restaurant launched by Guardiola, Txiki and Ferrán Soriano, the top management citizenassociated with Paco Pérez, executive chef of the place and who has five Michelin stars to his credit. Does Guardiola appear to eat? Obligatory question. “Yes, the day before Watford (Friday 22) was here. He doesn’t usually come the days after.” However, TAST’s intention is not to be Guardiola’s restaurant. “We want to be known for our cuisine,” says Alberto. “One of our goals is to try to ‘educate’ the British palate, not just have Mediterranean customers”, Add. It seems that they are succeeding, with TripAdvisor as judge (it has an average of 4.5 out of 5 and appears in position number 38 of the more than 1,700 restaurants that the portal computes in Manchester).
When the project started, another intention had to be added, to be Manchester’s first Michelin star restaurant. For now, the pandemic has parked it, but the horizon is optimistic and the clientele is flowing. The clothing of those present who coincide with AS has little to do with soccer. There are no Manchester City shirts or scarves. They do not enhance Guardiola’s asset. Of course, they do not close the doors to football fans. “When Sporting de Portugal came, we made a Portuguese menu. On Tuesday, we have specialties from Madrid: stew croquettes, cod with chickpeas, scrambled eggs with ham… A nod to visitors“, closes Alberto. That of feeling at home, away from home. The Michelin star would be another title for Pep, but surely he prefers to win his first Champions League with City…