Pep Guardiola, the skilled coach from Catalonia, is currently recovering from back surgery, shaking up Manchester City’s game plan.
In his absence, the team’s assistant, Juanma Lillo, steps up to lead the Premier League champions. Let’s dive into this coaching shift and understand its impact.
For Manchester City’s upcoming Premier League match against Sheffield United on Sunday, the enthusiastic presence of Pep Guardiola won’t be on the sidelines.
An ongoing back issue compelled the head coach to undergo surgery last week, causing him to be unable to actively work with his players for several weeks.
This situation implies that Guardiola won’t be able to participate in any training sessions or matches until he achieves a full recovery from the surgery.
This shift stems from Guardiola’s enduring back pain, spanning over a decade and originating from his coaching days at Barcelona.
The discomfort intensified after City’s victory over Newcastle, prompting the coach to travel to Barcelona for surgical intervention. A statement from City on Tuesday elucidated, “Pep Guardiola has undergone a routine back surgery to address a lingering issue.
The Manchester City manager has been grappling with severe back pain recently and sought emergency surgery performed by Dr. Mireia Illueca in Barcelona. The procedure was successful, and Pep will now undergo recovery and rehabilitation in Barcelona.”
As for the duration of Guardiola’s absence, City hasn’t provided an exact timeline, as it hinges on the speed of his recovery from the back surgery. Nonetheless, the club anticipates his return to work around mid-September.
City’s statement included, “We expect him to return after the upcoming international break. The entire Manchester City community wishes Pep a swift recovery and eagerly anticipates his return to Manchester.”
Guardiola’s absence will encompass two matches. He won’t be present for City’s away match against Sheffield United in the Premier League on Sunday, as well as their home game against Fulham on September 2.
Assuming a successful recovery, he should be back on the touchline when City faces Wolves on September 16.
As for who will assume coaching duties during Guardiola’s absence, his assistant coach Juanma Lillo has stepped into the role. Lillo, with over 40 years of coaching experience, has been overseeing training since Tuesday and conducted the press conference on Friday.
He will be on the sidelines for the away match against Sheffield United and the home game against Fulham.
Juanma Lillo, hailing from Tolosa in the Basque Country region of Spain, boasts a coaching legacy spanning decades. Despite not having a playing career, he has served as head coach for 17 different clubs and as an assistant with Chile, Sevilla, and Manchester City in two separate tenures.
Though he hasn’t secured a head coaching trophy, Lillo commands significant respect within the football community. Guardiola views him as a mentor.
Lillo and Guardiola’s paths initially crossed during the 1995-96 season when Guardiola’s Barcelona defeated Lillo’s Real Oviedo 4-2.
Lillo recounted, “We lost 4-2, but we played really well. Out of the blue, a gentle knock echoed on the dressing room door, and to my surprise, there stood Pep. He hadn’t managed to change into different attire yet.
He had taken the effort to approach me and inquire if I had a moment to chat – as though I would ever be bothered by conversing with the finest center-midfielder in football’s history.”
Their relationship deepened, leading Guardiola to appoint Lillo as his assistant coach at City in 2020. While at City, they secured consecutive Premier League titles.
Lillo departed in 2022 to become the head coach of Al Sadd in Qatar but returned to Guardiola’s coaching staff this summer after Enzo Maresca assumed the head coach position at Leicester City and Rodolfo Borrell departed to become the sporting director at MLS side Austin FC.