Juanma Lillo will introduce himself to the Premier League at large on Sunday as he takes charge of champions Manchester City in Pep Guardiola’s absence.
Guardiola’s little-known number two will call the shots from the dugout as the treble winners travel to Sheffield United without their influential manager.
Guardiola is recuperating in Spain after undergoing back surgery earlier this week and so Lillo, who only rejoined the club this summer after a year away, finds himself in the spotlight.
The experienced 57-year-old has had a varied and interesting coaching career, working in countries including Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Japan and China as well as his native Spain.
He first joined Guardiola’s backroom staff after the departure of Mikel Arteta in 2020 and spent two years at the Etihad Stadium before leaving to take up a post in Qatar.
City swept to Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup glory without him but Guardiola sought to bring him back after the exits of Enzo Maresca and Rodolfo Borrell at the end of the campaign.
The pair have been friends since Guardiola played under Lillo at Mexican side Dorados de Sinaloa and were keen to work together again.
“When I left was more of a ‘see you later’,” said Lillo at a press conference. “He’s someone very special to me, not only in footballing terms.
“I am here to be with someone who’s been very important in my life.”
Lillo recognises he has returned to a very strong set-up and is determined to do his best to ensure it remains that way.
He said: “A good team without good players is impossible, but at the moment we have good players and a really good coach. It’s very well managed.
“The way we train has a lot to do towards the way we play. That’s how we do it.
“Things might not always go our way, but I can assure you that we’re going to continue doing things the right way.”
Bernardo Silva, who signed a new contract at City this week, is available again for the trip to Bramall Lane after illness. New signing Jeremy Doku could come into the reckoning but John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne are sidelined.