I have always been aware of how complicated it is to be a football coach, especially if you haven’t been a professional player. But, undoubtedly, to be part of a club like Villarreal allowed me to start putting some flesh on the bones of my new career. I was at the club for six seasons, the last three of those in the first team, as part of Juan Carlos Garrido’s technical staff.
In that spell we got to play in the Europa League – and in the 2010/11 season we reached the semi finals against Porto (above). That season we also ended up in fourth place in La Liga, which allowed us to play in the Champions League in my final year there.
From that first-team experience I remember, especially, the great players who made you grow with each training session.
“Juanma Lillo exuded knowledge, curiosity and awareness”
I will always remember how easy it was for Ariel Ibagaza (below, left) to control the pace of the game in a simple rondo drill. How Robert Pires (below, right) hardly had to adjust his movement to find a pass; how Marcos Senna, playing on the inside, gave us balance, helping to play high-quality football in a midfield full of great players.
But unfortunately, as with everything in life, it came to an end. In this case it was Christmas 2011, after being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Mirandés of the Segunda División B.
Those dismissals, bitter as they may be, make you value every minute that you’ve been through, and make you realise that having the opportunity to be a football coach is a privilege that cannot be wasted. That’s when you learn that there isn’t a single day that is just another day. Not a single day can be wasted.
Your footballing days give you so much. Nothing lasts forever – even less so in football – so we should squeeze every last drop out of each and every day.