WHEN Raul Caneda met Pep Guardiola in Mexico, he expected him to get on the next flight back to Spain.
The Manchester City coach’s glittering playing career had seen him light up the Nou Camp.
And here he was on the other side of the Atlantic in a 20,000-seater stadium in a region known for drug cartels.
Caneda was No 2 at Dorados in Sinaloa for the period in 2005 that shaped Guardiola’s career as a boss.
The Spanish duo are still close and Caneda said: “All geniuses are humble. Without being humble, they are not a genius.
“Pep was a champion at Barcelona and was an icon.
“He travelled to Mexico for a small team and felt the same passion for football as Barcelona.
“It was a difficult area with the cartels. When you read about big crime in Mexico, it is Sinaloa.
“But even with injury problems with his back plus the frustrations, he had total passion.
“When you get to the top, it is not without passion.”
Caneda now wants to face his pal on the touchline.
The 48-year-old was assistant to Juan Manuel Lillo in Mexico and Spain before heading to Saudi Arabia to become a coach.
And now he wants to manage in one of Europe’s top leagues. He added: “Play against Pep? I would kick him then shake hands after I win . . . ”
At the moment they are on the same side, as Guardiola has asked him to scout opposition teams in the Champions League.
What he saw 12 years ago at Dorados was Guardiola learning his trade and getting ready to change the way football is played.
Caneda said: “He showed different characteristics to the other players.
“He thought he could learn about people — that is not very common among players.
“Pep was very curious about skills, how to handle players and tactics.
“He was a different player — he played as a coach.
“He controlled the spaces and the situation of the team-mates and was a very clever player.
“Pep was humble enough to look for people to help him when he wanted to make the step from player to coach.
“He didn’t want to live off his name as a player, that is the main difference between him and the majority.”
Caneda believes Guardiola has changed the game of football.
He added: “In the last 30 years we have three or four guys able to change things.
“Pep Guardiola, Arrigo Sacchi and Johan Cruyff.
“I tried to learn from two big revolutions in tactics.
“In the 1980s, Sacchi denying space and time to the opponent.
“The second is the control of the game from Cruyff and Pep.
“Cruyff is the beginning of everything good in Spanish football. Before Cruyff we were nobody.
“They were Cruyff’s roots but Pep was able to improve them.”
Caneda, who never played as a pro, started his managerial career at Saudi sides Al Ittihad and Al-Nassr. He began coaching after holding an ambitious conference for the world’s top coaches in his hometown of El Grove in north-west Spain.
He said: “We were a village of 10,000 people and I organised a meeting of the most important coaches — Sacchi, Cesar Luis Menotti.
“I phoned them. Even without paying a penny to anyone they still came, spoke about football and had a nice holiday.”
Caneda wants to establish himself in England and is ready to start in the Championship.
He added: “It is by far the best second league. Coaches from all over the world are willing to work in the Championship.
“You feel it as part of your family, your passion and part of your life.”
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In the meantime, he is enjoying watching his old amigo’s team tear up the Premier League.
Caneda said: “Watford was 6-0, Liverpool was 5-0, Crystal Palace was 5-0 — total control.
“It depends on what style of football you like but for my taste, it is the best.”