Bryant Lazaro worked as a developmental coach in Sevilla FC’s U21’s in the 2016-17 season. Here he met first team coach, Juan Manuel Lillo. One of the great thinkers of the game, and cited as Pep Guardiola’s “biggest influence”. Lillo currently works in Manchester City as Pep’s assistant.
– In an interview with American Bryant Lazaro, we caught up with the young football manager regarding his coaching experience in Sevilla FC and how Juan Manuel Lillo, among others in the Club, influenced his way of thinking football.
Bryant Lazaro spent the 2016/17 season as a developmental coach for the Sevilla FC U-21’s, known within the Club as the “C-Team”. A unique squad within the Club’s structure which served as a “sparring” group for the Sevilla first team. During that period, Sevilla’s first team was managed by Jorge Sampaoli, with JuanMa Lillo and Lionel Scaloni serving as his assistants and Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo, also known as “Monchi”, as Sporting Director. Sevilla FC were competing in the European Super Cup, the Champions League, the Spanish Super Cup, the Copa del Rey and La Liga at the start of the 2016/17 campaign.
Working with Pablo Blanco, Academy Director, has been a career changing experience for the young American coach. “Sevilla FC has shaped how I understand football and I will always be grateful to Pablo for the opportunity he afforded me to develop there as a coach. The systematic approach in all areas of the Club, coupled with a relentless pursuit of improvement, is how I can best sum up how the Academy operates.”
Bryant found himself on the training pitch 6 days a week, conducting 10 sessions in as many days. The attention to detail is what most impacts the American about the Andalusian Club’s day-to-day: “The specificity to which they scout, train and analyze players is so deeply embedded in the Club culture, from the 5 year-olds to the first team. Aside from the regular training sessions with their respective teams, the Academy players in Sevilla have 2 additional practices every week where they work on position-specific technical aspects. These exercises are done in a repetitive manner and are meant to refine basic technique.”
Jorge Sampaoli, the experienced Argentine coach, would often use Bryant’s U-21 players in first team training sessions to help prepare the players for Champions League and La Liga opposition: “Sampaoli has a unique training method, where he uses Academy players to assimilate behaviors of the up-coming opponent. For example, before meeting Atlético Madrid in the league, he would have me organize my players in a 1-4-4-2 formation with attacking full-backs, a diamond midfield and alternating diagonal runs from two strikers so he could run through likely match scenarios.”
This type of interaction with the first team would happen at least 3 times a week, and this led to Bryant and JuanMa Lillo, Sampaoli’s right hand man, to get to know each other. Lillo is widely regarded as one of the most influential coaches in modern football, currently serving as Pep Guardiola’s assistant in Manchester City. “JuanMa surprised me with his openness and generosity, he always took time to answer my questions. He changed my perspective on build-up play especially, encouraging me to see the goalkeeper as another player and gave me invaluable advice on how to develop this on the training ground. We still keep in touch to this day and I use his ideas as a reference, which reflects how humble he is.”
Bryant Lazaro, the only American to have ever coached in Sevilla FC’s Academy, has recently been recognized as the youngest American to have coached professionally in Europe when he led Øygarden FK in the Norwegian Obos-Ligaen in 2020 at the age of 31.
As well as Lillo, he recognizes Pablo Blanco as an important person in his coaching development and doctoral education: “Pablo has guided me before, during and after my time in Seville. I was able to conduct research for my PhD in the Academy and this facilitated my doctoral thesis on talent identification.”
Bryant will complete his PhD from UCAM Murcia in 2021.