Thursday 26 November, 2020

Guardiola mentor Lillo appointed as Man City number two

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Juanma Lillo has joined Manchester City as assistant coach to boss Pep Guardiola.

Lillo's arrival ends City's search for a number two to replace Mikel Arteta, who left to take on the top job at Arsenal in December, with Rodolfo Borrell stepping up to assume extra duties in the interim.

Former captain Vincent Kompany and ex-Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso were among those linked to the post, although Lillo's appointment brings considerable intrigue given his long association with Guardiola.

The City manager concluded his playing career with a six-month spell under Lillo at Mexican club Dorados in 2006.

Guardiola's biographer Marti Perarnau described Lillo as an influence to rank alongside the late Johan Cruyff when it came to honing the famed playing style he enjoyed considerable success with at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now City.

"I am delighted to have joined Manchester City’s coaching staff," Lillo said.

“My relationship with Pep goes back many years and I am thrilled to be joining him as part of this exciting team.

"Manchester City has enjoyed much success over recent seasons and played a brand of beautiful football we have come to expect from this club and its manager.

"It’s a pleasure to become a part of this group and I hope to make an important contribution to the club's success going forwards."

Lillo's most recent post was as head coach of Qingdao Huanghai, where he guided a side featuring City great Yaya Toure to promotion to the Chinese Super League.

His previous job in Asia was not as successful, with his Vissel Kobe team finishing mid-table in the J-League despite recruiting the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Lukas Podolski.

Lillo came to prominence in the mid-1990s, when he guided minnows Salamanca to LaLiga, becoming the youngest man to lead a team in Spain's top flight, aged just 29.

The last time he worked as a head coach his homeland was a stint in charge of Almeria, which ended with an 8-0 defeat at the hands of Guardiola's Barcelona.

A nomadic coaching career has also seen him serve as number two for Chile and Sevilla under Jorge Sampaoli – like Guardiola, a disciple of Marcelo Bielsa's methods.

City's director of football Txiki Begiristain said: "Juanma'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.

"We look forward to him playing a vital role as we return to football."

City resume their Premier League campaign after the coronavirus shutdown at home to Arteta's Arsenal next week.

They are poised to relinquish their top-flight crown to Liverpool, but still retain hopes of adding their FA Cup and the Champions League to a third consecutive EFL Cup, which they lifted in March.

However, City's future in Europe's top competition beyond 2019-20 is currently being decided, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing their appeal this week against a two-year ban for contravening UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations.

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