The former Real Sociedad, Vissel Kobe and Real Oviedo manager Juanma Lillo has joined Manchester City as assistant coach to Pep Guardiola – a role he held under Jorge Sampaoli with Sevilla and Chile.
Lillo was in charge at the Chinese club Qingdao Huanghai until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the decision to make him Mikel Arteta’s replacement at the Etihad reunites him with Guardiola, who he coached at the end of the City manager’s playing career and with whom he has been close for a long time. Guardiola considers the 54-year-old a mentor.
Lillo said in a statement on City’s website: “I am delighted to have joined Manchester City’s coaching staff. My relationship with Pep goes back many years and I am thrilled to be joining him as part of this exciting team.”
Deeply committed to a positional game and with a reputation as a philosopher, Lillo first met Guardiola in September 1996 when the then Barcelona midfielder knocked on Oviedo’s dressing-room door following a match and asked to meet the man whose team had just impressed him so much.
When Guardiola had first planned to join Barcelona as sporting director with presidential candidate Lluis Bassat in 2003, he had decided he would appoint Lillo as manager but they did not win the election. When Guardiola saw out his playing career at Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico in 2005, Lillo was his coach and Lillo helped prepare training sessions when the City manager first set out on his coaching career.
This is Lillo’s 20th coaching stint in six countries, including managing Andrés Iniesta in Japan. He became the youngest manager in La Liga after taking Salamanca to the top flight in 1995, aged 29. The last time Lillo worked as a manager in Spain, it was with Almería. He was sacked after an 8-0 defeat – to Guardiola’s Barcelona.
City’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, said on Tuesday that Lillo’s “vast experience working across three continents and with some of the most famous names in world football will be an invaluable asset to Pep and his team”.