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How a six-month spell in Mexico set Pep Guardiola on the road to coaching greatness

July 30, 2016
Guardiola used to eat at José Luis Bracamontes' restaurant  La Cocinita del Medio after training everyday.

Guardiola used to eat at José Luis Bracamontes’ restaurant La Cocinita del Medio after training everyday.

The city of Culiacán in north-west Mexico, best known as the bastion of the notorious Sinaloa cartel fronted by the billionaire drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was an unlikely place for Manchester City’s new manager, Pep Guardiola, to begin the process that would culminate in him becoming the world’s most sought-after coach.

Baseball, not football, has long been the most popular sport here and the newly founded local side Dorados de Sinaloa were minnows locked in a desperate relegation struggle when Guardiola, who turned 35 that month, arrived in January 2006.

It was hardly the typical destination for a veteran footballer looking for one last pay cheque but, having won more than a dozen trophies at Barcelona and made a fortune playing in the Qatar Stars League, the Olympic gold medallist and European Cup winner did not make the move in search of further financial reward or another trophy to add to his collection.

Instead it was here, under the tutelage of his old friend Juan Manuel Lillo, who had taken over at Dorados the previous summer, that Guardiola began to prepare for what has proved one of the most spectacular managerial careers in modern football history.

“We were in our second year in the top division and we’d just brought in Juan Manuel Lillo as our coach,” recalls the Dorados founder and former president, Juan Antonio García. “He told me there was a real possibility that we could sign Pep, who’d just reached the end of his contract in Qatar. Pep was already taking his coaching badges and the objective of playing in Mexico was above all to be close to Juan Manuel.”

Click here to read this feature in full at The Guardian.

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