Even in the coaching staff of Manchester City, there is a specialist in artificial intelligence.
Pep Guardiola's genius is undeniable, but a significant part of his success belongs to the team he has assembled around him. Many assistants have been working with him since his time at Barcelona, following their boss from crew to team, while others started collaborating with him at City.
Rodolfo Borrell - Assistant, Closest Assistant
His talent lies in discovering future stars among young players. Borrell worked at Barcelona from 1995 to 2008 and can be considered Lionel Messi's first coach and the person who helped Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta become world-class footballers.
In 2009, he moved to England at the invitation of Rafael Benitez. At Liverpool, Rodolfo developed Raheem Sterling, overseeing the player's transition from the academy to the first team. In 2014, Borrell joined City, initially serving as the club's technical director, primarily acting as the main link between the coaching staff and the academy. In 2022, he became Pep's closest assistant. Borrell replaced Juanma Lillo in this role, who worked alongside Guardiola after Mikel Arteta left for Arsenal in 2020.
Manuel Estiarte - Assistant
He stood next to Guardiola at the "Olimpico" and "Wembley" stadiums when Barcelona lifted the Champions League trophies; he stood next to him in Germany when Bayern Munich won three consecutive Bundesliga titles, and now he is by Pep's side, preparing to achieve the treble. Estiarte is Guardiola's most "loyal" assistant. And he has no connection to football whatsoever.
He is one of Spain's most significant water polo players, nicknamed the Water Maradona. Estiarte captained the Spanish national water polo team for 20 years, and no Spaniard has participated in more Olympic Games than him.
Guardiola and Estiarte first crossed paths in 1991 when the Spaniard entered the locker room to congratulate the team on their championship. The most significant year in their friendship came when Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympics. Estiarte won a silver medal at the Games, while Guardiola became a champion. Since then, they have continuously communicated, and their ten-year age difference never hindered their bond.
Estiarte has supported Guardiola throughout his football journey. When Pep became a coach, he invited his friend to join him on the coaching staff, serving as a mentor figure for the players. And for Guardiola, Estiarte is more than an assistant; he is a friend who is always there to help him see football from a different perspective.
Enzo Maresca - Assistant
Guardiola and Maresca met in Spain: Pep was already coaching Barcelona, and Enzo played for Malaga, led by Manuel Pellegrini. "I always say that in terms of football experience, Manuel was like a father to me," Maresca told the Manchester City website. "As a coach, in terms of relationships with players, handling and managing situations, he is one of the best. He convinced me to become a coach after my playing career. Manuel said I could be an excellent coach. Since then, I started thinking about it."
He studied coaching courses at the Italian coaching school in Coverciano, and his final thesis was titled "Football and Chess." "They have a lot in common," Maresca said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. "The most important thing is positional play and strategy. For a coach, it is crucial to have the mindset of a chess player: to develop a plan, study counter-moves, and choose the formation."
In 2017, when Maresca finished his playing career, he became an assistant coach to Fulvio Fiorin at Ascoli. The team played in Serie B, and their main objective was to avoid relegation. Maresca didn't have a coaching license but was officially presented as an assistant. However, his time there could have been more-lived.
"Unfortunately, the impression was bad, mainly due to problems within the club's structure," Fiorin told The Times. "We were doing well, especially considering the level of the team and the squad. We deserved a bit of patience from the management, but something was always happening within and outside the club. But if you look at the football Ascoli played that year, you would say, 'Damn, they played great.' Maresca had his disagreements with people at the club, and he left, but I stayed until the sporting director fired me, probably because he didn't share our views on the game."
Almost immediately, Vincenzo Montella, the former striker of the Italian national team, brought Maresca to Sevilla as his assistant. But after a year, Enzo found himself in England: Pellegrini took him to West Ham, where they worked together until the Chilean was dismissed. Pellegrini was impressed by Maresca's knowledge to the extent that he entrusted him with preparing the team for specific opponents. There was a possibility that Enzo would succeed his mentor as the head coach, but in the end, the club's management changed their minds. Just as he was about to leave London, Guardiola called and invited him to train with City. Such offers are not turned down: they had a long conversation, after which they agreed to meet again—and that meeting became decisive for Maresca.
"The first meeting took place after the Barcelona-Malaga match," he recalled in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Pep told me about his time at Brescia and Carlo Mazzone. After leaving West Ham, I tried to study Pep's football during my free time. It's a constant search for solutions and energy. The Premier League exhausts everyone, but he steps onto the field daily with incredible energy."
In the summer of 2020, Maresca took charge of the Manchester City U23 team, and in his very first season, he became the champion with them.
This victory attracted the attention of "Parma," which offered him the position of head coach in May 2021. Maresca was given the task of returning the team to Serie A. To achieve this goal, 15 players, including Buffon, were purchased, and they also brought Adrian Bernabe from Manchester City's youth team. Maresca warned that the group had undergone changes, and he needed time to build a new project and adapt his philosophy to Italy. The management nodded and spoke of trust, but it all ended abruptly after 14 matches. Maresca didn't shine, but expecting miracles from him in such a short period with a completely rebuilt team could have been wiser.
Despite the failure, "Celtic" wanted to take him on, but Maresca returned to "City" as Guardiola's assistant. Now he works with his idol, whom he admired throughout his football career. In many ways, Pep's philosophy inspired his dissertation on football and chess. Maresca believes that Guardiola thinks like a chess player.
"Celtic" is actively interested in Maresca again, wanting him as their head coach. However, whether he will agree or not is still a question.
Javier Mancisidor and Richard Wright - goalkeeper coaches
Mancisidor has been with the club since the time of Pellegrini, and Pep decided to keep him. Guardiola said he had no other candidate for the goalkeeper coach position because Javier is the best in training and tactics. Pellegrini also praised him, saying that it was thanks to Mancisidor that Joe Hart blossomed.
Wright was a player at "City" but never played for the club. However, after retiring, he stayed within the system and progressed through the youth teams to work with Guardiola.
Carlos Vicens - set-piece coach
Vicens has been living in Manchester since 2017. He started at "City," working with U12 children, then led the U18 team, which became champions under his leadership. Guardiola then brought him in and offered him the role of set-piece coach, to which he eagerly agreed, even though he needed to gain in-depth knowledge on the subject. As it turned out, experience doesn't always surpass the desire to learn and passion: he revolutionized City's set-pieces to such an extent that last season the team scored 21 goals from them in the Premier League and only conceded once, which became the best goal difference in the history of the competition.
A year ago, "City" announced that Vicens would become the head coach of "Hercules," but after a week, the decision was overturned because the team was relegated to the second league.
Lorenzo Buenaventura - fitness coach
They had worked together since 2008 when Buenaventura joined Guardiola at Barcelona. Then they moved together to Bayern Munich, and later the coach followed Pep to Manchester City.
The endurance, intensity, and aggressive pressing seen in all three teams they have worked with are fully credited to Buenaventura's talent. The coach participates in planning specific training sessions and individual programs and has an excellent reputation for assisting players in their rehabilitation process.
This season, he needed to develop a training system to prevent players from burning out or losing their form by spring due to the World Cup in November. Buenaventura focused his efforts on the final stretch of the games, and the results of their winning streak speak for themselves. Manchester City has not lost in the Premier League since February, and in the Champions League, the team has scored 31 goals, with 20 coming in the second half. On average, the team covers a distance of 116.89 km per match.
Buenaventura's work method is simple: he wants his players to feel good and comfortable. He also analyzes various aspects of the team composition to determine which exercises best meet Guardiola's requirements. Buenaventura always prioritizes speed and precision. Pep highly appreciates him for this, as the head coach of Manchester City believes that Lorenzo is incredibly talented and that many successes would not have been possible without him.
Carlos Planes - analyst and scout
Planes started working with Guardiola even earlier, in 2007. Whether at Barcelona B or Manchester City, he analyzes video footage. He studies the collective, individual, strategic, and tactical aspects of the team's game, which helps the Manchester City boss better manage one-on-one elements of the game. Planes focus on the tactical approaches of other teams, their set pieces, and individual players.
In the book "Pep Confidential" by Marti Perarnau, Planes provided detailed insights into his collaboration with Guardiola.
"Pep always enjoys reviewing the entire match, and we upload the recording to his computer as soon as the game ends," shared Planes. "Then he can watch the whole match or specific moments highlighted, focusing on individual players or certain tactical aspects. I also leave him my notes, which include match details and specific things we agreed to pay attention to."
Planes also appeared in the documentary "All or Nothing," where he mentioned his fascination with tactics. "As an analyst, I am interested in seeing the global positioning of all the players, analyzing how they play and where the spaces are, to identify where we can attack or how we should defend," he said.
Other people who assist Guardiola:
In 2021, the City Football Group added former astrophysicist and political advisor to the Ministry of Finance Laurie Shaw as the "Lead Artificial Intelligence Specialist." He was not the only one hired for such a role; three others were also appointed. Manchester City confirmed at the time that they had hired "new employees" in the data field, mentioning that all newcomers had experience in physics and would work in the 10 clubs of the City Football Group (CFG).
Tom Perry Hannah Meikle takes care of the players' nutrition. Previously, the club had a nutritionist, Silvia Tremoleda, who changed the canteen menu, so players started taking the food home. Pep has two prohibitions, by the way: sweets and pizza.