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Guardiola explains how Arteta exit and “dream” arrival made Man City even better

When Pep Guardiola was at Barcelona his team once put eight goals past Almeria – and got Juanma Lillo the sack.

Yet when Mikel Arteta walked out on Manchester City to become Arsenal boss last year it was to Lillo that Guardiola turned to become his assistant.

It should worry Arteta when the Premier League leaders travel to the Etihad, that Guardiola believes he’s now an even better manager.

And Lillo, a 55-year-old Spaniard who took his first coaching role on leaving High School, has been the key to unlocking more of his genius.

“Juanma is a friend of mine from a long time ago and finally we can work together,” said Guardiola.

“It was a dream – and now the dream has come true. His knowledge of the game is overwhelming.

Guardiola and Lillo during an Almeria vs Barcelona clash

“He sees things that few people in the world are able to see – me included.

“I’m a guy who sometimes expresses my feelings too much and Juanma makes me feel more calm. I read situations better.

“I would love him to be able to speak better English to communicate more on the pitch with the players – but maybe he needs time.”

Juanma Lillo, Assistant Manager of Manchester City
Juanma Lillo, Assistant Manager of Manchester City

When Guardiola was winding down his own playing career with an ambition to move into coaching it was to Lillo he turned.

In 2006, the Catalan joined Mexican club Dorados de Sinaloa only because Lillo was manager.

Guardiola recognised a man who had been born to coach.

Lillo’s first job was at the age of 16 and despite spells with clubs like Oviedo, Tenerife, Real Zaragoza and Real Sociedad, much of his career has been spent working in relative backwaters.

His time in charge of Almeria came to a crushing end in 2010 after a Barcelona team including Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andreas Iniesta demolished his team 8-0.

Guardiola’s men have won 17 straight games

Guardiola said: “Of course it has been forgiven by Juanma.

“But if I was training Almeria at that moment and he was training Barcelona, I would have been defeated eight-zero too.

“Juanma knows things better than me because he fought in teams that were not so lucky while I had a career with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Man City.

“It all depends on the quality of the players. The big successful managers cannot have success and win Premier Leagues and La Ligas and other competitions if we are not surrounded by a big club and talent.

“I have said it before with Mikel and Tito Vilanova (at Barcelona), I need their advice and support.

“It is so important to help me understand how to control my emotions and see something like I am not able to see.

“There are managers in the Championship and in the lower divisions who are incredibly well prepared, who have incredible ideas and incredible methodology.”

City have racked up 17 successive wins in all competitions – including 12 in the Premier League to go steaming towards a third title in four seasons.

Last month, when an offer came in for Lillo to become Chile’s head coach, he turned it down to remain at Guardiola’s side.

It’s fair to say, with City pulling clear at the top of the Premier League, that Arteta hasn’t been missed.

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