It was Juanma Lillo, one of Pep Guardiola’s greatest influences, the Spaniard turned to when recruiting a successor as assistant manager to Mikel Arteta. They first worked together when Lillo managed Mexico’s Dorados and Guardiola remained a player – Lillo had by then already become La Liga’s youngest manager at the age of 29 when guiding Salamanca into Spain’s leading division in 1995 – and have been reunited in the sixth country he will have coached in.
Lillo most recently managed China’s Qingdao Huanghai, who he inspired to promotion to the Super League, and assists Guardiola having held a similar role with the respected Jorge Sampaoli. Like Guardiola, Lillo remains an admirer of the methods of Johan Cruyff, even if it was his knowledge of positional football that led to him working with Sampaoli. “(He is the) best coach I ever had,” Guardiola once said of Lillo, who could even prove a more influential addition than any potential player.