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02.03.2010 13:46

Guardiola and Lillo: 14 years of friendship

Sandra Sarmiento

Two great friends will be facing each other this Saturday when Almeria host Barca. Juan Manuel Lillo and Pep Guardiola first met in Oviedo and then went on to share a footballing adventure in Mexico.

According to Pep Guardiola: “I’ve learnt from every coach I’ve ever had, but there are three in particular who’ve made their mark on me: Johan, Charly and Juan Manuel Lillo”. The two first met 14 years ago at the Carlos Tartiere Stadium in Oviedo and this Saturday they’ll experience for the first time what it’s like to face each other as opposing managers.


julio_99_manda_0.jpg1 September 1996. A warm September evening and Barca are facing their first league game of the season at the Carlos Tartiere. It was the day that Ronaldo and Robson made their debuts and for many, including Luis Enrique whose heart has always been with Oviedo’s local rivals Sporting Gijon, the 2-4 win will be the main memory of that day. But for Pep Guardiola, it was the first time he met the then Oviedo manager Juanma Lillo.


That day marked the start of an intense friendship which culminated in 1996 when Lillo took over the lowly Mexican team of Dorados de Sinaloa in Culiacán and Guardiola decided to join his old friend in the Mexican adventure. It was to be Guardiola’s final professional team and on the day he signed he commented: •some people might think this is just about money, but it isn’t. I want to keep on playing and seeing what I can achieve”. More importantly, Guardiola wanted to play under his friend Lillo.

Always in charge!

4_xbernabeux.jpgJuanma Lillo has always said “Guardiola was already a coach when he was playing- He’s never stopped being a coach and he’ll never stop being a player. His way of understanding football is very close to that which Johan believed in and he’s putting that into practice now”. The Basque coach was always convinced that Guardiola would be a success and what’s more at the best club in the world. As for Guardiola himself, he must surely be pleased with the success that Lillo is having at Almeria and happy that they are both part of the elite world of La Liga managers.
Guardiola and Lillo: 14 years of friendship

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Lillo, youngest ever manager
The Basque coach made his debut as a manager in the top flight with Salamanca in 1995 – just as Guardiola was starring as part of the Dream Team- when he was just 30 years old and became the youngest ever manager of a Spanish first division team.

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