Al Sadd unveiled Juan Manuel Lillo as their new coach on Monday, with the Spaniard saying it’s an ‘opportunity for him to transfer his football experiences’ to the Qatari giants.
Lillo, who last week left his job as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Premier League champions Manchester City, signed a two-year contract with Al Sadd yesterday in the presence of CEO Turki al-Ali and Sadd’s Head of Football Mohamed Ghanem al-Ali.
The 56-year-old Lillo has vast experience in a coaching career spanning 40 years that has also taken him to clubs in Spain, Mexico and China. Having started coaching before his 20s, he was the youngest manager in charge of a La Liga club, having taken over Salamanca at not yet 30 years of age.
Lillo follows in the footsteps of his countrymen Xavi Hernandez and Javi Gracia, who led Sadd to two consecutive league titles. “I’m proud to continue in this line. I’ve a great relationship with Xavi which dates back to his playing days. I also had a talk with (former Spanish star) Raul, who was a player at Al Sadd. He gave me good feedback about Qatari football,” he said.
“The fact that the World Cup is being played in this country also influenced my decision. But ultimately, the idea is to form a winning team. If you spend more time near the rival goal, the probability of winning is higher. Our goal will be to play for a win, whatever be the competition,” added the 56-year-old.
Lillo has enjoyed a long and well-travelled coaching career that has seen him take charge of Amaroz KE, Tolosa, Mirandes, Cultural Leonesa, Salamanca, Oviedo, Tenerife, Zaragoza, Ciudad Murcia, Terrassa, Dorados Sinaloa, Real Sociedad, Almeria, Millonarios, Atletico Nacional, Vissel Kobe and Qingdao Huanghai. He has also held assistant roles with Chile and Sevilla as well as City. The Spaniard joined City in June 2020 to fill the gap left by Mikel Arteta’s departure to Arsenal. He played an important role behind the scenes as City lifted two Premier League titles and a League Cup and also reached the Champions League final.
At Al Sadd, Lillo will have huge expectations to fulfil with the Wolves dominating the football landscape in Qatar over the last two seasons. The two-time Qatar Stars League champions will be without 12 of their players in the first seven rounds of the new season due to commitments with national teams, however Lillo was not too worried about it.
“Yes, not having the main players is a problem but I want to see it as an opportunity – an opportunity to get to know the remaining players, assess their abilities and utilise it in the best possible way,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “Coaching Sadd will not only be an opportunity to transfer my football experiences, which I have built over 30 long years, but will also be another chance to gain knowledge. One never stops learning,” he added.
Sadd CEO Turki al-Ali said it was a conscious decision by the club to go for a Spanish coach as they continue to show faith in the Spanish school of football.
“In Al Sadd, we have resorted to the Spanish school in recent years because it is commensurate with the capabilities of our players. The Spanish brand of football depends on skill and teamwork more than on physical strength,” al-Ali said.
Lillo’s support staff will be made up of assistant coach Anejo Domingos, fitness coach Danny Xuta, goalkeeper coach Pedro Pereira and technical analyst Adriano Teixeira.