Pep Guardiola will miss Man City’s next two games after undergoing surgery; he will recover in Barcelona until after September international break, with Juanma Lillo in temporary charge; watch Sheff Utd vs Man City live on Super Sunday this weekend, kick-off 2pm
Pep Guardiola will be absent from Manchester City’s next two Premier League games after undergoing back surgery in Barcelona.
A statement from the Premier League champions says their manager has been struggling with back pain for some time and has undergone emergency surgery in Barcelona.
Guardiola’s surgery was successful but he will continue his rehabilitation in the city. The 52-year-old is not expected to be back on the touchline for City until after the international break, meaning he will miss this Sunday’s trip to Sheffield United, live on Sky Sports, as well as the visit of Fulham on September 2.
In his absence, Juanma Lillo – who only returned to the club as assistant manager earlier this month after undergoing a spell as Al Sadd manager in Qatar – will take charge of training and matches for the treble winners.
Man City have been without Pep before…
This is not the first time Man City have had to cope without their manager since Guardiola first came to the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2016.
A Champions League touchline ban in the middle of 2018 meant Guardiola put Mikel Arteta in charge for the visit of Lyon in September of that year, a group-stage game which City lost 2-1.
Then, at the beginning of 2022, Guardiola missed an FA Cup third-round tie at Swindon Town due to contracting coronavirus.
Both Guardiola and assistant Lillo were ruled out of the game, so assistant coach Rodolfo Borrell took charge of the game. City won the game 4-1 despite 14 backroom staff and seven first-team players isolating due to Covid-19.
Lillo in focus
Started his coaching career early
While Lillo has no playing experience to draw upon, his coaching career started when he was only 16 years old after joining his local side Amaroz KE in the Basque region of northern Spain. He remained there for four years before taking charge of hometown club Tolosa CF in the Spanish fourth tier.
Called up to the big leagues
After several years in the lower reaches of the Spanish pyramid, Lillo got his big break at Salamanca in 1992, guiding them from the third division all the way to LaLiga in three years.
As a result he became the Spanish top-flight’s youngest-ever coach at the time, aged just 29. He was sacked with Salamanca languishing in the relegation zone, prompting an outcry among fans. The club were unable to avoid an immediate return to the Segunda Division but Lillo’s profile was raised significantly.
Spreading his wings
After nearly two-and-a-half decades of exclusively working in his native Spain, Lillo headed for Mexican side Dorados de Sinaloa in the mid-2000s. One of the players under his command was Guardiola, who was at the back end of his glittering playing career.
Lillo has had the travelling bug ever since, having taken charge of sides in Colombia, Japan, China and Qatar, while he was understudy to Jorge Sampaoli with the Chile national team and is now into his second stint under Guardiola at City.
Kindred spirits with Guardiola
Lillo first moved to the Etihad Stadium in the summer of 2020, replacing the outgoing Mikel Arteta, after guiding Qingdao Huanghai to promotion to the top-tier Chinese Super League.
He left ahead of City’s treble-winning campaign last season to take up a head coach role with Al Sadd but came back to City earlier this month.
Director of football Txiki Begiristain said: “His vision is totally aligned with Pep’s. They both love this game and want their teams to produce high-quality, attacking football.”
Details, details, details
How highly Lillo is valued came to light before he was given a temporary promotion by City, with Guardiola expected to be back in the dugout in the middle of next month following the international break.
Guardiola was effusive in his praise when Lillo returned to the north-west, drawing attention to his assiduous nature, saying: “Juanma sees things no-one else in the game sees.
“He understands football on an incredible level, so he is the perfect person for me to work alongside. His preparation for matches is absolutely amazing. I know he will raise standards because he works so hard every single day.”