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When Manchester City's assistant coach almost became India's technical director

The Spaniard came to India in 2011 for a series of interviews in front of a board comprising Praful Patel, Kaushal Das and officials from Reliance-IMG

When Manchester Citys assistant coach almost became Indias technical director

Juanma Lillo, standing on the left of Guardiola


C.C. Chengappa

Updated: 24 May 2022 7:19 AM GMT

Manchester City's recent Premier League victory was just their 4th league win in the past 5 years. Pep Guardiola has been in scintillating form ever since he took the reigns of the club in 2016 and has not held back both on and off the field. Amongst the title celebrations is the story of a man who has heavily influenced the on-field decision making of England's top football club. Juanma Lillo, the Spanish football coach was appointed as Guardiola's assistant coach in June 2020. He has been the guiding light of their recent golden run both in England and Europe.

Juanma Lillo also has a minor Indian connection which goes back to a decade ago. In 2011, India was on the lookout for a technical director for its football team. There was a major revamp in place with several candidates in contention for the job. Lillo was one of these candidates who arrived in Delhi for an interview with officials from the AIFF including the now-ousted Praful Patel. He was seen watching over the national team practising at the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi and unfortunately was not awarded the job due to certain internal reasons.

One of the problems identified with him was his minimal English speaking skills which would be a problem in communication. At the time of his interview, Lilo was well regarded across the world as a mastermind in tactical knowledge of football. He was the youngest coach to have ever taken reigns of a La Liga club and had major experience in other countries as well. Prior to his job interview in India, he had managed 13 teams including Real Sociedad and UD Almeria in Spain.

The most important aspect of Lillo's career is the influence he has had on Pep Guardiola's understanding of being a coach . Pep played under Lillo during his time in Mexican club Dorados. After embarking on his managerial career, Pep was heavily influenced by what he learnt under the veteran coach and utilised his knowledge during his time at Barcelona, Bayern and now Manchester City.

It was this influence that also directed him to approach Juanma Lillo to be his assistant coach after Mikel Arteta left to be Arsenal's manager. Guardiola speaks highly of Lillo and said "He's is a friend of mine from a long time ago and finally we can work together. It was a dream and now it is a dream come true,". His knowledge of the game is overwhelming, he sees things that few people in the world - me included - can see. He helped me to be more calm."

One can only ponder over the 'what if' moment had Juanma Lillo been offered the job on a long term basis. While the erstewhile AIFF board might be regretting their decision now, Lillo is basking in his well deserved glory having helped guide Manchester City to their 4th league title in 5 years.

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